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Spander: Tiger not letting media mauling ruin his focus

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He went to Stanford, didn’t he? The Brits should have figured out by now what that means. That even in his most difficult of times, Tiger Woods still is going to battle them, word for word, phrase for phrase, thought for thought.

That whatever they, and we, think of his character, his moral standards, there’s no doubting his intellect, or his grasp of the benefits of preparation.

He understands the battleground has changed from a golf course to an interview room.
Woods may not know what lies ahead in the 139th British Open, the Open Championship, which starts Thursday on the Old Course. But Tuesday he was ready for the salvos on his personal life, emerging with as much dignity as others believe he still possesses.

Journalism is different over here. So is golf, especially on the links courses where the Open is played. But the way Tiger, who has won the last two Opens at St. Andrews, 2000 and 2005, hits the ball is of less consequence to a country where everybody’s business is everybody’s business.

Since the revelations last winter of marital infidelity, Tiger has been the material of the sort of tabloid papers that make the National Enquirer seem like National Geographic. They are edgy, testy and nasty. American writers have tossed Tiger softballs. Here they smack him with the bats — cricket or baseball, it makes no difference.

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A few days ago the Telegraph, accompanied by a photo of Tiger and Elin, she in a red T-shirt with white lettering “SU Cardinal,” for Stanford, ran a story, “Tiger Woods to give wife [$100 million] divorce Settlement. ”

And the session Tuesday, where Tiger did disclose that because of St. Andrews’ slower greens he is changing putters for the first time in 11 years, did dwell on Woods’ estrangement. To no avail.

With his agent, Mark Steinberg, and PR man Glenn Greenspan, standing nearby, Woods was asked about Elin, about his image, about trying to gain redemption, and, oh yes, about the newly renovated and lengthened (and in some opinions, ruined) famous Road Hole, the 17th.

Nothing fazed Tiger. Which was predictable, if not predictably informative. Golf, fine. Family? Not a chance.

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When confronted with a comment about his swearing on the course and — yikes! — whether he was “willing to cut out all those tantrums this week and respect the home of golf.”  Tiger was both polite and diplomatic. And unenlightening.

“I’m trying to become a better player and a better person,” was Woods’ response.

And, as he attempts to be the first ever to win three Opens at St. Andrews, will the fact he’s perceived differently now by the public have any impact on his week?

“It doesn’t impact, it at all,” he insisted. “I’m here to play a championship, and this is the Open Championship at St. Andrews.

I mean, this is as good as it gets.

“It’s the home of golf, and just like every other player in this field, really looking forwards to getting out there and playing the Open Championship.”

And getting out of the interview tent, even if, as with a wedge from a bunker, he had no trouble escaping another sort of trap, one of questions, not sand.

Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.realclearsports.com. E-mail him at typoes@aol.com.



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