BETHESDA, Md. (AP) – There was the slightest crack in Tiger Woods’ voice when he did a TV interview after walking off the 18th green at the U.S. Open, where he finished a close second.
Now we know why.
Woods revealed Tuesday that his wife, Elin, was admitted to the hospital on Thursday of the U.S. Open, experiencing complications as she prepared to deliver the couple’s first child.
“It wasn’t life-threatening or anything, but she just had a few problems and had to be admitted,” Woods said. “It wasn’t easy. It was not easy, because I wanted to be there. And the doctor and Elin said, ‘There’s nothing you can do. So go out there and just get a “W.”‘
“Well, came close. But that night was infinitely more rewarding than any ‘W’ ever could have been.”
Talk of Daddy Tiger nearly threatened to overshadow the real reason for his appearance at Congressional Country Club: his new PGA Tour tournament, the AT&T National, which tees off Thursday.
Vague and guarded at times but emotional at others, Woods spoke for the first time about the birth of Sam Alexis Woods on the morning of June 18 and his subsequent first 21/2 weeks of fatherhood.
As often is the case when discussing his private life, Woods was scant on details. Asked to give a timeline of the night of his daughter’s birth, he said simply: “I flew, landed in Orlando, went straight to the hospital and next thing you know, we have Sam Alexis in our arms.”
Asked if he would have returned to Oakmont the next day for an 18-hole playoff had he birdied the final hole to tie leader Angel Cabrera, Woods said: “Well, that didn’t happen, so it would be all hypothetical. I’m not going down that road.”
Asked how he managed to focus on his game those four days, he said: “You just do. You just do.”
“You’ve got to understand,” said Notah Begay, Woods’ longtime friend and teammate at Stanford. “When you grow up with a father and a military background, you’ve got to learn how to focus when you’re getting yelled at, and you’ve got to learn how to focus when you have distractions.
“I would have to say when he’s on the golf course, he’s a golfer. And once he steps off, then he’s a celebrity, he’s a father, he’s a husband – just go down the list, depending on what situation he’s in,” Begay said. “But I think in that particular instance, he was so focused on winning that golf tournament and knowing that his wife was strong enough to deal with the things that she was dealing with. Give her some credit, too.”
The subject of Woods’ late father, a former Green Beret who served two tours in Vietnam, came up frequently as Woods spoke about his newborn. He named his daughter Sam, for instance, because that’s what Earl Woods used to call Tiger Woods, even though Tiger’s real name is Eldrick.
“We wanted to have a name that would be meaningful to either side of the family, my side or Elin’s side, because she was born (the day after) Father’s Day,” Woods said. “It just happened to fit. My father had always called me Sam since the day I was born. He rarely ever called me Tiger. I would ask him, ‘Why don’t you ever call me Tiger?’ He says, ‘Well, you look more like a Sam.”‘
Woods also said he’s been “changing diapers and doing feedings.” He has always maintained he doesn’t need much sleep, but fatherhood is apparently testing his limits.
“I definitely don’t sleep now,” Woods said, laughing.
He said he probably will cut back on his business ventures now that he has a new No. 1 priority in his life. Still, his expectation for his tournament this week is the same as for all others: win.
“It’s just time management and understanding where your priorities are, and our priorities are Sam,” he said. “That’s the one priority. And from there, you work it out from there.”
And, for the record, Woods – who himself was putting against Bob Hope on a TV talk show at age 2 – said he already has put a golf club in his young daughter’s tiny hands.
“She couldn’t quite hold it,” Woods said with a smile. “But it was there.”
Divots: Congressional has agreed to host Woods’ tournament this year and next, but PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem isn’t sure what happens after that. Finchem didn’t rule out moving the event out of the Washington market when Congressional hosts the U.S. Amateur in 2009 and the U.S. Open in 2011. Nearby TPC at Avenel is being renovated but might not be ready in two years. Eventually, the tournament could be rotated among Congressional, Avenel and Robert Trent Jones in Gainesville, Va. … John Daly and Tim Petrovic were added to the 120-player field after John Cook and Paul Azinger withdrew with shoulder injuries.