SHEBOYGAN: The tabloids have toned down their coverage, the paparazzi no longer sit in front of his hotel trying to snap photos and the helicopters don’t hover above his house like they used to.
Woods says some aspects of his personal life, but not all, are finally starting to show signs of returning to the way it used to be.
“I don’t have paparazzi camped out in front of my house, hotel, helicopters flying over the range,” he said.
“That was, at the time, happening every day. They were following my kids every where they went. Taking photographs of everything they were doing. That was very tough. But it hasn’t been the case of late. To me, that is a sign that it is headed towards normalizing.”
The same can’t be said about his golf game. The 14-time major championship winner heads into the 92nd PGA Championship with his game in disarray after coming off the worst performance of his career at last week’s World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational.
“I couldn’t put together any rounds,” Woods said on Tuesday. “I was certainly frustrated in the way I hit the ball and the way I putted.”
Woods’ world number one ranking is under threat at the season’s final major championship which starts on Thursday at the Whistling Straits course.
The four-time PGA Championship winner is without a win this season and without a major title in the past two years.
He hit the skids at the World Golf Championships, shooting a fourth round 77 to finish in a tie for 78th. His 18-over 298 was a whopping 30 shots behind winner Hunter Mahan.
“To be honest, I thought I would have been here (playing poorly) a little bit sooner with all that is going on,” Woods said between practice rounds.
“Somehow I’ve been able to play a little bit better than I thought for a stretch and then it finally caught up with me last week.”
England’s Paul Casey said Woods’ struggles were a topic of conversation in the players’ locker room at the World Golf Championships.
“Without a doubt. The first round was slightly surprising, worst round he had ever at Firestone. I didn’t expect to see scores like that from him,” Casey said Tuesday.
Woods’ last win was in Australia in November, two weeks prior to smashing his car into a fire hydrant, sparking a series of scandalous revelations that destroyed his marriage and put his once mighty game on a downward spiral.
Woods compared the past nine months to four years ago when he had to deal with the emotional pain of losing his coach, best friend and father Earl Woods.
He says he is simply not enjoying playing golf as much as he used to.
“What’s been apparent in my life right now versus when my dad died are two totally different deals,” Woods said.
“I really took solace back then in going out to the golf course after my dad passed because it brought back so many great memories of us growing up and practising and training and competing and giving each other the needle.
“Here it has been different. Every time I come out here it has been a bit more difficult. Off the golf course it has been a lot more difficult. A lot of things have gone on but in both instances it is about attaining balance and finding an equilibrium.
“My dad always said ‘just keep living’. That is something I have taken to heart quite a bit. There are quite a few times I have definitely said that to myself.”
His unbeatable aura may have been diminished, but Woods says he has sometimes surprised even himself and is seeing signs of improvement in his game.
“With all the things that have gone on for some reason I have been able to piece together rounds and keep it in there. There were two tournaments where I really hit it well but other than that I really haven’t done that well.
“The two practice sessions I had the last two days have been a step in the right direction. I got one more practice tomorrow and hopefully everything will come right on Thursday.”
Woods says if he can somehow right the ship this week and collect his 15th major title then it would help him salvage something from a troubled year.
“No matter how bad your year is or how good your year was, you have to get a major in there for it to be a great year.
“And there were years that I won a bunch of tournaments but I didn’t win a major championship.
“Last year I won six times and I didn’t win a major championship. That is what separates a really good year from a great year. There are four majors and we all have a chance this week and hopefully I can get it done.” —AFP