Exactly one year after a news conference that was a special occasion, Tiger Woods was back on the very same podium yesterday. This time, it was nothing special. It was just another mass interview with someone who, sad to say, has turned into just another golfer.
The talk was fairly joyless and uninteresting, like the year Woods has spent on the golf course. He has had exactly zero wins since he made that intensely anticipated return to public life here at Augusta, vowing to be a better man and admitting that living a life filled with lies was no fun.
Since then, he has immersed himself in the mechanics of the grip and backswing and all kinds of other minutiae from his sessions with new swing coach Sean Foley. Woods insisted Tuesday he is ready to win this week. When he was asked which part of his game is ready, he said, "Everything."
We'll have to take his word for it. He does know more about winning major championships than anyone on Earth other than Jack Nicklaus. But if Woods' game is in great shape, he sure has been keeping it under wraps. Occasionally, he has a really good round and gets us all excited. But he just hasn't been Tiger.
He doesn't wow everyone with the length of his tee shots. "I'm certainly not one of the longest, there's no doubt. But I can still move it out there. I'm not one of the shortest yet," he said. He marvels as much as anyone at how far Dustin Johnson and Gary Woodland can hit a ball. Woods no longer has the aura that he did before the personal scandal tore apart his family and his peace of mind.
Mostly, he doesn't have the chipping and putting touch that won four green jackets and made him so great. It still doesn't look like he's having much fun.
A year later, he sure wasn't interested in introspection.
"Last year was last year and this year is this year," he said. "As far as being a better person I try to do that each and every day. That always will be the case."
"I feel bad for him," Nicklaus said Tuesday. "I feel bad for his family. I feel bad that he got himself in that position. We're taught to have forgiveness and I wish him well. I hope he gets his game back."
Woods decided not to play a practice round Tuesday because it was windy and it is not expected to be windy during the tournament. He was about to play with his buddy Arjun Atwal but apparently changed his mind.
What Woods needs is to just go out and let it fly. Start over. Play in all kinds of tournaments, big and small, instead of just gearing up for the majors. And, even as he is working with Foley, he ought to give himself the chance to figure it all out in his own head.
"Jack Grout was my teacher," Nicklaus said. "Jack Grout came to the Masters every year. Never once did Jack Grout ever step a foot on the practice tee. I have always felt like, you can't see the guy when you're on the golf course. When you've got a problem, you've got to fix it."
Woods has things to fix before he matches Nicklaus' record of 18 major titles. With four to go, that isn't the sure thing it once seemed. Nicklaus was asked if he wants to see Woods do it. With a twinkle in his eye, he said, "If he does it, I want to be there to see it."
That would be a special occasion.