Woods aiming to conjure tearjerker on return

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The Independent Online

Perhaps those golfing purists were naive to hope that this week at Winged Foot would be all about Tiger and Phil. Inevitably, it is to be about Tiger and Earl and the prayer that the world No 1 can provide the perfect tearjerker on Father's Day, which also happens to be the final day of this US Open. That much was certain even before Woods opened up on the death of his father yesterday.

The 74-year-old lost his long fight with cancer on 3 May and the grieving period has meant that Woods Jnr has not been seen on a course since the Masters when Phil Mickelson established himself as the biggest threat to his pre-eminence with his second successive major.

"I had no desire to return to the game of golf," Woods said, reflecting on a nine-week absence during which he did not so much as pick up a club for over a month. "I thought about coming back later. But Dad would have wanted me to compete. I'm looking forward to it, as well, because then I will be focused so much that everything will go away - the media, the galleries, everything. Although, I'm not saying that meanly, though."

He could have been forgiven for doing so as the New York Post neatly, and naffly, summed up the rush to raise goosepimples by printing a famous photograph of Tiger beaming at the Earl and doctoring the image of the latter to resemble a ghost.

It is not Tiger's fault, of course, that the treacle is in danger of pouring itself over the borders of tastefulness, although the 30-year-old's approval of the timing of Nike's apparent attempt to tie heart strings to the purse strings has caused something of a controversy.

His main sponsor traditionally air a new advert of their main man on the day of a major and tomorrow America will be treated to the sight of 30 seconds of imagery direct from the Woods' home videos to show the progress of the major-making relationship between father and son.

So there is Earl cutting his boy's hair, Tiger handing a trophy over to "Pops" and then enough emotional public embraces between the pair to underline. At the end, the message pops up "To Dad and Fathers Everywhere". The cynic might want to add his own caveat - "(Who would all surely love a new driver today - $299.99)."

Indeed, never have the RRPs seemed to have been merged with the RIPs so shamelessly. Even in America this transparent piece of marketing has provoked a wince. When questioned about it, Dean Stoyer, a spokesman for Nike, said: "We would never have released this ad without the full blessing and support of Tiger and his family."

Meanwhile, Adam Roth, the firm's advertising director was more forthright. "We see a major as a brand moment." Obviously, Tiger sees this US Open as a life-changing moment, even if his claim that he thought twice about missing a major and so handing Mickelson an open fairway to three in a row must be taken with a bucket of salt.

But what Woods is truly thinking invariably remains secret as Johnny Miller, the legendary Open winner turned legendary commentator, recognised yesterday. "Every time I've asked him a question, I can honestly say he's never given me a real answer," stormed Miller. "I feel like he's never given me the respect I deserve. Tiger's better at saying nothing than he is at playing golf." Whether yesterday's outpourings backed up Miller was more than a tad doubtful and certainly Woods's comments about the Winged Foot set-up could be taken as fact. "If the wind blows here this golf course could be an unbelievably difficult tournament," he said.

Ian Poulter agreed, saying that with the rough this thick, it is wise not to aim for a score but simply a position on the leaderboard. "After all, what is par?" he asked. "What does it mean around here?"

The existential Englishman did not and will not expect an answer. Good job. It seems there will be a different sort of "Pa" to be obsessed with this week.

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