Palmer says Tiger should let media take their shots

Tiger Woods wasn’t within earshot on Wednesday, but Arnold Palmer, whose handling of the media has set the gold standard for decades, offered some counsel for the beleaguered world’s No. 1 golfer.

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“I suppose the best thing he could do would be open up and just let you guys (media) shoot at him,” Palmer said in his annual gathering in the press room on the eve of the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, which has attracted 14 major champions and nine of the 13 winners on the PGA Tour this season, including Ernie Els, Camilo Villegas, Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk. “Someone said, ‘Move on.’ Well, that might be the best way to move on.

Woods has a chance to heed Palmer’s advice April 5 at 2 p.m. ET, the Monday of Masters week. Woods, who won’t defend his title this week at Bay Hill, is scheduled to face news reporters that day as he makes his long-awaited return to golf at the season’s first major championship, April 8-11 in Augusta, Ga.

Woods has given only two interviews on television since his world spun off its axis following a Thanksgiving night car crash and subsequent sex scandal that has tarnished his once pristine image.

The Masters only recently began conducting a press conference on Monday of tournament week, usually a player with only moderate news interest because most of the media isn’t there yet.

Woods is the only player scheduled for an interview that day. Given the sensational nature of his downfall, what he says could trump the NCAA basketball championship game held later that night.

Woods won the last two years at Bay Hill with final-hole birdies, both watched by Palmer from just off the green, but he told Palmer by phone last week that he did not feel his game was sharp enough to play there this year.

Instead, Woods will make his return to golf at The Masters April 8 after a five-month absence. Woods is scheduled to meet the news media in the Augusta press room on Monday, April 5, at 2 p.m. ET.

Palmer, who won four green jackets, said he could not “fathom” going to Augusta National after a five-month layoff if his intentions were to win. But, The King said, Woods is different.

“Absolutely,” Palmer said when asked if Woods will compete in the first major championship of the year. “I think that’s the nature of the beast. I think he is a competitor, and his thought is to be very competitive.”

Reigning British Open champion Stewart Cink agreed.

“Do I think Tiger Woods can be a competitive factor at The Masters? I can’t believe you’re even asking that question,” Cink said. “We’re talking about Tiger Woods, the best player that’s ever played golf. I’ve seen the players who are usually in that conversation. I’ve never seen anybody that plays golf like Tiger Woods does.

“So the answer to that question is yes, I believe he can be a factor.”

Woods has dominated the conversation at Bay Hill, as has been the case at other tournaments this year. It is more prevalent at Bay Hill because his return is imminent.

Palmer said he often took a couple of months off during the winter, as most touring pros did in the 1960s and ’70s, but that he would play just about every tournament leading to The Masters and other majors to make sure he gave himself the best chance to win.

One thing Woods could face — if not at Augusta National, then other tournaments with less control over the gallery — is heckling. Palmer remains one of the most beloved figures in golf.

“It would probably bother me,” Palmer said. “I’m a sensitive person by nature. I suppose if it happened often, I’d get used to it. But it’s not something I would look forward to.”

Colin Montgomerie (FSY) knows about this. He had several instances in America where he was heckled, especially at the U.S. Open.

“But Tiger is different,” Montgomerie said. “I only got the spotlight when I came over here to America. He has a spotlight and has had it on him for the last 10 years. So I don’t envision problems arising with that at all. He’s the most focused sportsman I’ve ever known, and I think that he will adapt accordingly.”

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