Tiger Always On Move At At&t

As Host, Woods Goes From Appointment To Appointment But Says He's Ready

July 01, 2009|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,kevin.vanvalkenburg@baltsun.com

BETHESDA - -He walked into the room 16 minutes behind schedule, wearing a tailored pink shirt, a fitted black hat and a big smile for the cameras. But on his feet, Tiger Woods wore silver Nike running shoes instead of golf spikes, and at first glance, it was a bit disarming. Almost like seeing Frank Sinatra in flip-flops.

But the shoes were symbolic of what it means to be Woods during the week of the AT&T National, the annual PGA tournament he hosts. On Tuesday, the best golfer in the world was constantly on the move at Congressional Country Club, practically running from one appointment to the next, forever called upon to shake more hands, grant more interview time or chat with everyone from sponsors to senators, fans and competitors.

"We have a few more meetings and a few more appearances here that you don't normally do," Woods said when asked what his preparation will be like this week. "You learn how to balance your time and try to be as ready as you possibly can. Your workout schedule is kind of thrown off a little bit. But then again, I'll be ready."

There was a hint of Woods' steely competitiveness in his voice when he said those words, and the sentence was not followed by a big, warm grin. Woods didn't play in his own tournament last year, having been forced to skip it while he recovered from major knee surgery.

Anthony Kim took advantage of his absence and won his second PGA event, which was somewhat fitting, considering Woods was, and is, Kim's idol.

"You know, he's, in my mind, the greatest player that's ever played the game," Kim said. "That's no disrespect to Jack Nicklaus, but in my generation, he is. And that's part of the reason I really wanted to play professional golf. He made golf OK to play. Basketball and football were the sports you wanted to play, but he made golf cool, and all the fist-pumping and the yelling and the people getting excited, that was part of the reason I wanted to be a professional golfer."

Woods, though, will be a good bet to have his name engraved on the trophy this year, especially after a somewhat disappointing sixth-place finish in the U.S. Open at Bethpage.

"I always put in as much as I possibly can to win an event," Woods said. "Certainly I love being the greedy host. It's fun winning your own event. There's no doubt. Hopefully, I can do that again this week."

A victory by Woods would likely be heartily embraced by tournament patrons, particularly because it will be the last chance for locals to see Woods up close for a while. The tournament will be leaving the area for two years while Congressional overhauls its greens in preparation for the 2011 U.S. Open. Aronimink Golf Club outside Philadelphia will be the host in 2010 and 2011, with the tournament scheduled to return to Congressional in 2012.

Woods conceded that he's concerned the tournament might lose some momentum within the community but that nothing can be done about it. His foundation plans to continue looking for a place in Washington to construct a Tiger Woods Learning Center, which would serve as an after-school community hangout for kids.

"It's unfortunate with the U.S. Open coming here that we have no choice. We have to go. It's part of what the USGA makes you do," Woods said. "But we are coming back here. We're going to be playing at Congressional. I think the golf course will be in even better shape with the new greens, and I think the relationship we've built in this community already has been fantastic. The connection we have with them, with trying to build a learning center - I think we want to be here for years to come. For perpetuity, really. Hopefully, we can all make that happen."

Woods played a practice round Tuesday to get a feel for the course, which has been conditioned to the style of golf he prefers: long rough and firm greens. However you feel about a PGA Tour player getting to dictate a course setup that favors his own game, Woods' round today as a part of a pro-am will be a bit more controversial.

That's because one of his playing partners will be Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, hardly a favorite of Redskins fans. Romo's girlfriend, Jessica Simpson, will also be singing the national anthem before the start of the event.

"Certainly I didn't realize it was going to be this big of a deal," Woods said, responding to a reporter who asked how he felt about his own pro-am group potentially getting booed. "[Romo is] a big golf nut and loves to play and understands how to play. I've always wanted to play with him, and he accepted our invitation, which is awfully nice of him. He's used to getting booed. It comes with, in a team sport, being away from home."

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