On Wednesday morning, while addressing members of the media on the eve of the Memorial, Tiger peered out into the audience, a shadow being cast over his eyes, giving the appearance that he was scrutinizing the press as if it were a putt on the 18th.
Tiger addressed the media before the tournament begins on Thursday. He answered questions about his ailing neck, which forced him to withdraw from the Player’s Championship last month.
"I'm good enough to play," Woods said. "Definitely."
The most impressive part of the press conference, however, had nothing to do with a question posed to Woods, or any response he gave. No, the best part had nothing do with anything that was spoken.
Unless, that is, you believe the best smile in sports spoke for itself.
When Tiger Woods began his professional career, his success and ear-to-ear smile went hand in hand. The smile/fist-pump combination soon became his trademark.
Although, as Woods’ career has progressed, the smile has disappeared.
Tiger has been seen walking down fairways, away from tee shots, and off of greens with stern, smile-less appearances. The joy of the game appears to have eluded Tiger over the years, as the smile we all knew and loved transformed into a scowl and frown.
His club-slamming antics, coupled with his alleged foul language and short temper, have been showcased by Woods on a more consistent basis. The smile, during all of this, has been nowhere to be seen.
After the toughest and most scrutinized offseason of Tiger’s career (and perhaps of any professional athlete ever, for that matter), one would think Woods’ demeanor would be as serious as ever.
But, through the shadows cast down over his face, his eyes widened as he began to crack jokes with the press.
Oh, and that billion-dollar smile was on full display.
When asked how he was preparing for this weekend’s tournament, Tiger responded by saying “I have played full rounds. The other day, we played 54 holes…in carts…and in shorts.” He had the audience, and himself, smiling and laughing.
The lovable, charismatic, fun, iconic role model was back, smiling for what feels like the first time in a very long time.
How Woods will perform at the Memorial this weekend is still a mystery, as is how his neck will respond to four consecutive days of competition.
One thing is for certain, however: Tiger (and his smile) are back.
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