Philadelphia, PA – Tiger Woods has always been a trailblazer.
When he burst on to the golf scene, the sport had never seen an athlete of his ethnic background compete, let alone dominate.
Woods was a pioneer in the world of working out. He treated the sport like an athletic endeavor where physical strength and general fitness mattered. Gone were the doughy body types of Craig Stadler or Fuzzy Zoeller. Woods ushered in the era of lifting weights and waist sizes in the 30s.
This week, Woods is dipping his Nikes in the pool of something different.
He is not doing his normal pre-tournament press conference at the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, N.C.. Instead, Woods will take questions from the fans via twitter and Facebook.
"We've been thinking about this for a couple of months now," Woods' agent Marc Steinberg told espn.com last week. "We wanted to have a little bit more direct interaction with fans, and they've been very good to him over the years. We're probably a little bit behind with social media and this is a way to do that."
That's beautiful. Pardon my jaded nature, but, I'm not buying it.
Woods' relationship with the media at best could be described as icy. He doesn't trust us, never gives us a real answer to questions. Some inquiries are tougher than others, but, for the most part, they're fair.
Now, with his game in tatters, and with a scandal still somewhat in people's minds, Woods is not taking media questions.
Taking fans' questions is great. Steinberg is right, Woods is not interactive enough with his people. He is far behind in the social media front, but not quite as far back as, say, my father, who will never understand what twitter is no matter how many attempts at explanation.
Woods' official twitter account shows 2,121,094 followers. His twitter performance has been tepid at best, but it appears to really be him writing his messages. Know how I can tell? Bad jokes.
If Woods is genuinely interested in connecting with his fans through social media, the novel approach would be to tweet more often. As someone who was resistant initially, yours truly fell in love with the freedom twitter provided. Many professional golfers expressed apprehension at first, now, they're addicted.
And it's helped those golfers.
Take Bubba Watson. He tweets frequently, and not always feelings on golf. There's a religious aspect to Watson's tweets, but there's a fun side to it. Remember that silly rap video he, Rickie Fowler, Hunter Mahan and Ben Crane created? It was goofy, but it made waves and some people really loved it.
No one is saying Tiger needs to resort to self-parody, but he could be more personal with social media. Something as simple as tweeting a photo of himself cooking dinner or practicing could go along way.
Instead, Woods has chosen to go the "more interactive" route at the expense of the media. That's simply unfair. Woods doesn't trust the media, but most of the general public does and we are supposed to be conduits from the player to the reader.
Woods is skipping the middle man and this whole brouhaha could've been side- stepped if he did this Q&A with the fans and met with the media.
We haven't seen Woods on the course since the Masters. He went to Augusta National as the favorite after his win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, then laid an egg. He tied for 40th, kicked his club like a 2-year-old who couldn't get a toy he wanted and cursed more frequently than a Quentin Tarantino script.
There are legitimate questions to be asked of Woods and the state of his game. In this extremely controlled environment of hand-picking Facebook questions, Woods doesn't have to answer a single thing he doesn't want to.
Woods won't give firstname.lastname@example.org any information about his swing. He won't tell tigerfan33 what really happened to his game at the Masters.
Granted, he may not tell a media member that, but we are better equipped to get the relevant answers from Tiger.
That ultimately hurts the fans more.
This whole thing rings hollow and that's the worst part about it. It seems that he's going down this path with the front being he wants to treat his fans better, but Woods is just trying to get out of talking to the media. It doesn't have much to do with regular citizens.
The motivation can't solely be to honor some special fans.
It's fair to wonder if this "interactive" episode would take place if Woods' game was in better shape.
Or, does Woods do this if Hank Haney never wrote a book?
Woods, who will apparently still honor his commitment to speak after rounds, is going to do this more this year, according to Steinberg. The Wells Fargo Championship has become one of the biggest PGA Tour events of the year, so what's to say he does this at the PGA Championship, or the U.S. Open?
Part of the job is to stand up and answer questions. You may think it stinks, but it's your responsibility. As the brightest mega-star in the sport, no matter how much Woods, or anyone out there disagrees, you handle the tough parts.
This is just another way Woods is skipping out on his duty. And using the fans as an excuse is borderline reprehensible.
- Jason Dufner finally won on tour with his playoff victory at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and true to his personality, barely reacted. I've shown more emotion when my Chinese food arrived. He won in his 164th start and raised his arms slightly. But that's how Dufner is. I fully expect Dufner to make the U.S. Ryder Cup at this point, and he'll be an asset. Dufner never strays from his steely demeanor. That will help.
- In every playoff, there must be a loser, and that fell at the Zurcih Classic on Ernie Els. He missed a five-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole to win, then lost on the next hole. Els' problem is with the putter. He ranks 84th on tour in putting inside five feet. He once said he didn't think long putters should be legal, but since they were, his desperation drove him to try it. Els fought hard to get into the Masters, but came up short. He has three top-fives on tour this year, but is not a closer. It's all about the putter.
- The LPGA Tour needs help with its product. It's Yani Tseng and little else, thanks to Michelle Wie's early career free fall. A battle between two American youngsters like Stacy Lewis and Lexi Thompson, like we saw Sunday at the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic, is a great start. Thompson is unquestionably the future of this tour, outside Tseng, so any strong performance from her is gravy for the LPGA Tour.
- Movie moment - I've found as a new father that I'll sing to my son when he's really cranky. What I've discovered is that I will sing the tune of whatever movie is on. So my boy has fallen asleep to "Hold On" by Wilson Phillips and "Bridesmaids," but on Monday, it went to another level. I got my son to sleep thanks to "I'm into Something Good." Don't know it? It's from the fantastic montage in "The Naked Gun" where Frank and Jane spend a day together laughing after "Platoon" and clothes-lining a couple in the Pacific. I need to change my approach.
- TV moment - Caught "Veep" and "Girls" on HBO. Liked both, although "Girls" is like nothing on TV at the moment. Don't watch it with your grandmother, but it's fresh. "Veep" isn't fresh, but Julia Louis-Dreyfus is inching her way into the pantheon of comedic television actresses. Look out, Lucy.