SOUTHAMPTON, NEW YORK | The man sat there with a half smile on his face. He was talking about golf in the way that anyone who has ever played it talks about golf. About how frustrating the game is. How annoying it can be one day and so rewarding the next. And still he continued to smile, as one might when talking about the most favoured child who sometimes steps out of line but not enough to lose their precious status.
Who was this man, who spoke of experiences with which every golfer could identify, of how the game resembled a jigsaw puzzle in which one piece of the puzzle is always missing? Who was he, the man who spoke of how frustrating the game was and indeed, whether the frustration wasn’t part of the game?
It was Tiger Woods, no less, on the eve of the 118th US Open, the man who has won more major championships than almost anyone else in the history of the game, the golfer who generates exceptional interest wherever he plays and has won three of the 19 US Opens in which he has competed. Surely with this record, the baffling, royal and ancient game of golf is less baffling to him than to the rest of us.
“No,” Woods said. “Golf is always frustrating. There’s always something that isn’t quite right and that’s where we as players have to make adjustments. Hopefully, this is one of those weeks where I put it all together and even it out and we’ll see what happens.”
There was a calmness about Woods that wasn’t present years ago. The injuries he has suffered in recent years and the operations he has had have made him realise his mortality, in a golfing sense. One year ago, he said, “ … there was really no expectation to have the thought that I could actually be here again. Forget golf. Can I actually participate in my kids’ lives again?
“So to go from there to where I’m at now … is pure bonus. To be able to have this opportunity … against these guys, best players in the world, it’s just a great feeling and one that I don’t take for granted.”
Nor does he take for granted that because he has won 14 major championships, 79 PGA Tour events and was world No. 1 for 683 weeks, of which 281 were consecutive, the game is going to be any less puzzling for him.
“Golf is always frustrating, remember,” he said.