Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Tiger says Scottish golf fans have been 'great to me'

By Martin Dempster
Tiger Woods sidestepped questions about his divorce and controversial Canadian doctor Anthony Galea but didn't even hesitate yesterday when asked what reaction he expected to receive from Scottish golf fans in this week's 150th Anniversary Open Championship at St Andrews.
"The Scottish golf fans have been fantastic with respect to golf and all the players," said the world No 1 ahead of his first appearance on British soil since the sex scandal which shocked the golfing world. "They've been great to me over the years and I wouldn't see them being any different this week."
Woods, who won at St Andrews in 2000 and 2005 and will become the first player in Open Championship history to do the hat-trick on the Old Course if he lifts the Claret Jug again on Sunday night, is adamant the dramatic change in his public image since this event last year will not affect his title bid this week.
"It doesn't impact at all," added the 14-time major winner. "I'm here to play the Open Championship at St Andrews - this is as good as it gets. I would like to win, no matter what. To win here is certainly one of the bigger highlights of my career."
According to Woods, the majority of fans he's come across since returning from a six-month break from the game in the Masters at Augusta National in April have been exactly the way he expects to see spectators at St Andrews, where crowds of more than 200,000 are expected over the week.
"Most of the people have been fantastic," said the 34-year-old. "The places that I've played and the people who've come up to me have been great. Most of the people have been respectful over the years here and I wouldn't see anything different. But everyone is entitled to their opinion."
Asked how much work he felt he needed to do to rebuild his public image in the wake of a string of affairs that led to a spell in a sex addiction clinic and appear to have left his marriage in tatters, Woods added: "Well, just the same thing I'm doing each and every day, just trying to become a better person."
That was roughly the same answer he gave when asked if he'd be taking five-time Open champion Tom Watson's advice this week to clean up his game by not swearing or throwing golf clubs in disgust, as has often been the case in the past. Woods, who was out early yesterday morning with Mark O'Meara, his friend and mentor, for a third practice round since arriving in Fife on Sunday, took exception when it was claimed he'd looked unhappy on the course and wasn't fulfilling a promise he made earlier in the year to interact more with spectators. "Not at all," he said. "I was fine this morning - I don't know what you are talking about."
The three-time Open champion surprised many people when, instead of staying in Ireland to play some links golf, as he'd done in the past before the world's oldest major, he headed home to Florida after playing in the JP McManus Invitational Pro-Am at Adare Manor at the beginning of last week.
He insisted, however, it was the sort of thing that came with being a parent. "All that really matters is that I have two beautiful kids and I'm trying to be the best dad I can possibly be. That's the most important thing of all. I went home (last week] and had a great time with my kids. The reason I did it was obviously for them and to hang out with them was an incredible experience."
On the question of a possible divorce from wife Elin, he said: "I'm not going to go into that." Nor would he give details of being interviewed by the FBI recently over Galea, who helped him recover from his knee surgery in 2008, but has since been charged with administering unlawful drugs.
Woods, who has vehemently denied ever taking performance-enhancing substances, said: "I can't go into any of that because of the fact that's an on-going case. I can't comment."
He did reveal, however, that he had separated from the putter with which he has won 13 of his 14 majors. "I've always struggled on slower greens and the one I've gone to this week comes off faster and I've had to make very little adjustment," he said.



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