By Steve Keating
ST. LOUIS, Missouri (Reuters) – It wasn’t so much media day at the 100th PGA Championships on Tuesday as Tiger Woods Day.
If there was any question about whether the golf world still revolves around the 42-year-old surgically repaired American without a major title in a decade, one only needed to peak into the Bellerive Country Club media room as major winners, a Ryder Cup captain and Woods himself were paraded through for a friendly cross-examination to find the answer.
From a morning start to an evening finish the thread connecting the day’s agenda was a familiar one – Tiger Woods.
Francesco Molinari was given the courtesy of a few questions about the impact of his historic British Open win at Carnoustie last month — the first major triumph by an Italian — but the media did not want to know how it felt to hoist the Claret Jug so much as what it was like playing the final round with Woods.
Soon it was time for a walk down Tiger Woods Memory Lane, Molinari being asked to reflect on caddying at the U.S. Masters for his brother Edoardo who happened to be playing in a group with Woods.
And finally: “What sort of an influence has he (Woods) been on you?”
“I think, in my generation we were all looking up to him, especially around 2000, 2001, 2002,” offered an unruffled Molinari. “He was doing unbelievable things.
“He’s been a model and an idol for me growing up, and it’s nice to see him back playing good golf, and hopefully we’ll be paired together late on Sunday again this week.”
There are 156 golfers teeing it up at the year’s final major and it is likely every one of them has, at one time or another, been asked about Woods’ impact on their careers.
Of the eight golfers to take questions on Tuesday, six were asked about or mentioned Woods as the media probed for some Tiger nugget left unclaimed.
Most of the questions were familiar and the answers more so.
At any golf tournament Rory McIlroy, a charismatic four-time major winner, is the main attraction except when Woods is also competing and then the Northern Irishman is left to handicap the American’s chances as much as his own.
“There’s a lot of different layers to what Tiger has to go through to win again,” said McIlroy. “He just had his fourth back surgery, so to get to this point is a phenomenal achievement already.
“But, as we saw at the last major a few weeks ago, he’s right there, which is an unbelievable achievement.”
One of the subplots at Bellerive is Woods’ chances of securing a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team.
U.S. captain Jim Furyk is sure to be questioned on the subject on Wednesday when he pays a visit to the media centre.
But on Tuesday it was Thomas Bjorn, with four captain’s picks for his European squad to take on the United States in Paris next month, who was quizzed about Woods. Would his men be intimidated by the presence of the 14-times major winner?
“I might put a few noses out of joint by saying, but in my opinion, (he’s) the best player that’s ever played the game,” said Bjorn. “I’m glad that this generation of players gets to experience Tiger Woods, because that’s what they need.
“They need to experience what he brings to the game, and they need to experience all that comes with the world of Tiger Woods.”
(Editing by Ken Ferris)