SOUTHAMPTON, NY. (Reuters) - Tiger Woods gave the state of his game a tentative thumbs-up on Tuesday ahead of the U.S. Open, but slammed the door shut on questions about his private life as he prepared for Thursday’s first round.
Barely a year after being arrested asleep at the wheel of his car in Florida, with five drugs in his system, a bright-eyed Woods cut a much different figure as he faced the media for a 25-minute press conference at Shinnecock Hills.
Talking expansively about the course, his recent putting woes and the opportunities he has missed this year to end his victory drought, he suddenly turned economical with his words when the dark days of mid-2017 were raised.
Asked how his life had improved in the ensuing year, Woods curtly dismissed the question in just three words.
“It’s gotten better,” he said, making clear again that his new media and fan-friendly persona goes only so far.
He said that he watched last year’s U.S. Open on television, before he had been given the all-clear even to start practising after his April spinal fusion, not even sure he would be able to play again, let alone return to major championships.
“I had no expectation of getting this far,” he said.
“A lot of this is pure bonus because of where I was. It’s a great feeling and one I don’t take for granted.”
And although he has not yet won in his comeback this year, extending his drought since 2013, he has been competitive, including twice being in contention at back-to-back tournaments in Florida in March.
“There’s two ways of looking at that: I’ve given myself a chance to win, which I didn’t know if I was ever going to,” he said.
“I loved how it felt being there.
“I would like to get myself there a few more times. So far this year I’ve only given myself a few chances.”
This week marks a decade since Woods, now 42, last won a major — the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines — his record stuck on 14 major titles for much longer than anyone expected, not least the man himself.
“I have been there (in contention) on a number of occasions to win (another major) and I haven’t done it. And no, I don’t like that feeling,” he said.
One thing he won’t have to worry about this week is traffic as he tries to end a decade-long drought since his 14th major win at the 2008 U.S. Open.
“Staying on a dinghy helps,” he said, referring to his luxury yacht, Privacy, which is anchored nearby in the town of Sag Harbor.
Shinnecock, on the narrow eastern part of Long Island, is accessible by only one road, but Woods will arrive from the east, against the worst of the traffic.
He said some players had taken more than two hours to get to the course from their hotels and rental houses.
“There’s a good chance someone might miss their (tee) time.”
Reporting by Andrew Both,; Editing by Neville Dalton