“A little competitive.” That’s how Tiger Woods described himself in his post Masters press conference. Has there ever been an under-exaggeration so under-exaggerated?
Woods personifies competitiveness and when he first stepped out on Tour he did everything differently. He hit the gym, ate right, didn’t mix with many players, didn’t engage with the public much and he only seemed comfortable if you were uncomfortable in his presence.
But as the years have passed, experience and age have taught him well. He is now a much more engaging Woods, but he hasn’t lost his competitive streak and doesn’t see his 43 years as any barrier to success.
“Well, I think it’s training and nutrition. Exercise programs have changed. They have progressed. The treatment protocols have changed. Guys are able to take care of their bodies for a longer period of time. We know how important it is to eat perfectly and to train and also the recovery tactics that you have to employ, especially as you get older. As we get older, it sucks hopping in those ice baths, but it’s just part of the deal.
“But I just think that athletes, because of the understanding of the general science of sports performance has allowed, you know, athletes to push their primes into much later stages. And then also, you also have to be lucky, too. You can’t have those big major injuries in some sports, especially contact sports.
“My sport’s different. I can play a much longer period of time. I don’t have to hit the ball 340 yards. I can still plod my way around the golf course. We saw it here with Jack in ’98; he had a chance to win. We saw Tom Watson at 59 had it on his putter.
“In this sport, we’re able to play a much longer period of time, and you’re just seeing guys that are taking care of their bodies a lot better and able to play longer.”
For a man who has literally reinvented the game at Tour level Woods remains at ease with himself and is now more at ease with others and his public persona is much more affable and agreeable than it once was.
He has change how the game is played, how the players approach it and also the rewards that they can reap from it.
“When I first turned pro, I was the only one in the gym, except Vijay. So it was just basically he and I for years, and now everyone trains. Everyone works on their bodies, besides their game, and hey, even Phil’s working out (laughter). Things have come a long way.
“You know, a lot of the guys, especially on the Tour now, are training. They are getting bigger, stronger, faster, more athletic. They are recovering better. They are hitting the ball prodigious distances, and a little bit of that’s probably attributed to what I did.
The real question though is how does the GOAT feel after capturing #15?
“Just unreal, to be honest with you. You know, just the whole tournament has meant so much to me over the years. Coming here in ’95 for the first time, and being able to play as an amateur; winning in ’97, and then come full circle, 22 years later, to be able to do it again, and just the way it all transpired today.
“There were so many different scenarios that could have transpired on that back nine. There were so many guys that had a chance to win. Leaderboard was absolutely packed and everyone was playing well. You couldn’t have had more drama than we all had out there, and now I know why I’m balding (laughter). This stuff is hard.
“Yeah, just to come back here and play as well as I did and did all the things, all the little things well this week, and to do it here. This has meant so much to me and my family, this tournament, and to have everyone here, it’s something I’ll never, ever forget.”