Tiger talks the talk, but can he walk the walk?

When Tiger Woods flew into Melbourne this time last year a radio reporter was on the tarmac giving a blow-by-blow description of the event. The esteemed columnist Patrick Smith, who happened to be listening to the events back in the studio, sarcastically questioned the reporter: "Which foot emerged from the plane first?" 

Such was the high farce and performance of the mainstream media during Woods' successful last year that it bordered on the embarrassing for the rest of us who pay our bills on the back of writing about golf. 

 This year I made a conscious decision to try and avoid the sycophantic displays from sections of the media, Melbourne-based celebs and election bound Victorian pollies looking for a photo opportunity with the now former World No.1. To that end, I scheduled my arrival at the Victoria Golf Club for mid-morning while Woods was on the course in the pro-am and in time for his pre-tournament press conference. 

Sydney peak hour traffic and a Qantas employee, who stubbornly would not check-in this writer 29 minutes before his scheduled departure, saw me miss the press conference, which was apparently a standing room only affair. 

When I did eventually arrive at the media centre you could have fired a cannon through the place and not hit anyone. Tiger was long gone and so were most the press. Hardworking Golf Australia columnist John Huggan was still busily tapping away on his computer for one of the many publications that demand high quality content. 

"How was Tiger's presser?" I inquired. 

"Much of the same ... you know," Huggan replied. 

"Let me guess ... this is a great golf course; we don't get to play courses like this back in the States; I love the bunkering; I really enjoy it everytime I come down here to play the Sandbelt,"  I said. 

Huggan laughed, which suggested I was correct on each count. 

Tiger has perfected the art of using a lot of words to not say much and what he does say is usually the same stuff. What he said about Victoria GC was almost word for word what he said at Kingston Heath last year.  

Thankfully I was able to get a copy of the press conference transcript, which showed Tiger did, for once, venture off the script (slightly) when quizzed about his form and on-going work with new coach, Sean Foley.  

"I've got a pretty good chance of winning events if I play the way I know I can play," he said. "I put together a really good round at the Ryder Cup on the Monday and a shared two good bookend rounds [in the HSBC Champions event in Shanghai] last week, so things are shaping up.  

"I'm hitting the ball much further than I used to but I'm not as consistent as I need to be." Woods admitted there was plenty of fine-tuning still required on the swing changes he was making with coach Sean Foley, but vowed he would be World No.1 again. 

"Would I like to be No.1 in the world again? Yes, obviously," said Woods. 

 "But how did I get there? I won golf tournaments. And how did I remain there? I won golf tournaments. 

 "I haven't won anything this year so it's understandable that I'm not ranked No.1. I have to win golf tournaments in order to get there." 

Then it was back to the script. 

Woods said he felt an "incredible" vibe from the gallery, which was about a third of the size of last year's pro-am gallery. 

"These are some of the greatest sporting fans and you guys love your sport down here," he said.  

We love winners more. 

This might be the reason why ticket sales for this year's Masters are down on the sell out of last year. It may also explain why Victorian Premier John Brumby, who is election campaigning, has kept his distance from the defending champion. Last year, it seemed every moment Woods was off the course (well almost every moment) there was Brumby sticking his arm around his prized investment. 

I have no doubt Brumby will be there with bells on if, or when, Woods defends his title on Sunday and ends the chain of events that has beset his life since slipping the Gold Jacket over his shoulders at Kington Heath 12 months ago. 

Personally, my tip is Robert Allenby. He was blasting bullets down the range after his pro-am round and if he can make some putts early in the tournament it could be daylight second.