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January 30, 2010 6:12 AM

Tiger Talk Suddenly All The Rage On Tour

woods furyk.jpgTiger Woods still isn't talking about what came before, during and after his infamous Thanksgiving dinner, but all of a sudden, it seems like a lot of folks on tour have some thoughts on the Big Cat.
And while this candor is refreshing coming from the usually tight-lipped professional golf fraternity, it's fair to ask where all this straight talk has been regarding Tiger for, oh, I don't know...forever?

It seems players young, old and somewhere in the middle are making their opinions known about all manner of things regarding Woods these days, including his occasional reckless on-course behavior.

Most interesting, is that many of the players are using the plural pronoun, we, to address Tiger's issues. That would seem to at least loosely imply that they are comfortable speaking on behalf of the tour. I guess I wonder how many of their brethren on the circuit will stand behind their representatives' sentiments.

Hunter Mahan, was quoted in an Associated Press story earlier this week saying, essentially, that he believes Tiger's days of frightening people are over.
"We stopped being intimidated by him," Mahan said. "No one is scared of him. We saw Y.E. Yang play with him and flat-out beat him at the PGA last year. I think people have figured out he's just a human being."

Actually, Hunter, I think maybe you and your buddies on the tour have recently figured that one out. Most of the rest of us were positive that Tiger was all too human, even if he did have an at-times unworldly golf game.
When you hear comments like this, though, it does explain in part why Tiger has dominated for so long, no?
It's also fair to wonder how much of that is just a lot self-talk coming from Mahan, who has  loads of talent in his own right, but so far has been able coax exactly one victory on tour out of that sweet swing.

Whether Mahan, 28, really believes that he and his unidentified mates no longer fear the Tiger, he's at least smart enough to know that there's never been a better time for the mice to play than when their nemesis is away.
"It's an opportunity to step up and show this is not a one-man tour," Mahan said. "Hopefully, Tiger will come back and be part of it, not the centerpiece."

Watson weighs in
Mahan suddenly going all candid about Woods is one thing, but when tour royalty starts chiming in, it's worth sitting up and taking notes.
The ever-cautious, and generally milk toast, Tom Watson, recently held court during an interview on a Kansas City's news station  and took Tiger to the woodshed -- and once again did so using the 'we' word.

While Watson is critical of Tiger's off-course escapades, saying "it's bad for the game," it's his behavior on the course that the eight-time major winner remains most concerned about.
"His swearing and his club throwing...should end," Watson said during the interview with the hometown press. "That's not part of what we want to project as far as the professional golf tour is concerned."

This is not the first time Watson has chided Woods for his on-course antics. By going out of his way to again make it a point of emphasis, though, should leave Tiger's ears ringing a bit.

And when the subject of Tiger's return came up, another one of the tour's notable unquotables, Jim Furyk, took a whack at it -- though he seemed to be speaking only for himself and not on behalf of the tour.
"If I had to bet, I'd bet we'd see him at Augusta (the Masters is played April 8-11)," Furyk said. "Tiger hasn't come out and made any real public statements, so it's hard to figure out. Everyone is guessing it will be Augusta."

Furyk (pictured with Woods in the 2006 Ryder Cup), who has been one of the few players who has been able to get relatively close to Woods on tour, also tendered a weather forecast for the climate Tiger might face when he returns.

"There will be people who probably won't be as friendly and people who are," Furyk told the Florida Times-Union earlier this week."Tiger probably understands that and realizes that the people who he considers his friends will pat him on the back and encourage him.

"It's been a real life-changing experience, " he continued. "I'm sure you've seen it with friends and I've seen it with friends. Some people take sides. He probably expects some people to be pretty cold about it and some will support him and give him encouragement."

Phil won't go there
That Phil Mickelson is saying so little on the subject of Tiger might be the most interesting development of all.
Mickelson, who looks primed for a big year with or without Tiger about, seems determined to go about his business as quietly as possible.

After reading a vanilla-y prepared statement about Tiger to the press earlier this week before play began at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, Mickelson explained, "...I don't want to talk about it publicly for the reason that we're friends and we have a personal relationship, and I just don't feel -- I feel like it's a violation of our trust and our relationship."

So while Tiger has made the decision not to talk -- at least not yet -- you have to wonder if he is listening.

(BBC, photo) 

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