September 3, 2009

Into Everyone's Life, A Little Ken Green Must Fall

The tour's bad boy is back, and he's still not pulling any punches

"I certainly wouldn't defend whacking balls out of hotel rooms... But we've done it hundreds of times."

"I certainly wouldn't defend whacking balls out of hotel rooms... But we've done it hundreds of times."

Ken Green arrived on the PGA Tour scene 20 years ago as a brash iconoclast known as much for his run-ins with the powers that be as for his aggressive, streaky play. He won five times in a five-year span, but he rubbed enough people the wrong way that after he made the 1989 U.S. Ryder Cup team, teammate Curtis Strange half-joked: "We're even cheering for Ken Green."

Green's rebelliousness and propensity to pull stunts earned him both fans and critics. There were those distinctive green shoes, and he once got a bunch of his buddies into the Masters through the trunk of his car -- but said he didn't want to visit the club's barber shop because "I don't want to look like [former chairman] Hord Hardin." Some of the fun and games bordered on dangerous, such as hitting balls through narrow openings in sliding-glass doors. His antics made him the bad boy of the PGA Tour and earned him two dozen fines over the years. That's not counting the one he got reversed by telling the tour it was a nonalcoholic beer he drank while playing with Arnold Palmer at the 1997 Masters. (It wasn't.)

If Green enjoyed the wild ride of the '80s, the 1990s saw a steady downhill slide that turned into what he terms "an avalanche." It stemmed from a costly, protracted divorce from his second wife, Ellen, and estrangement from their son and Ellen's two other children. With his income dwindling, Green fell into debt, which he's still trying to pay off. He found himself haunted by mental demons on the course as his struggles mounted, falling off the main tour and into obscurity. Now recovering after being diagnosed with depression, he says he's healthier and happier than he has been in years.

At 44, Green earned his way back to the tour at last fall's qualifying school in what his longtime teacher, Peter Kostis, lauded as "one of the all-time greatest comebacks in the history of golf." Green started the year promisingly but admits that some trepidation remains. The voice message on his cellphone neatly summarizes his status: "Time to go back on the show. I'm gonna go out there and make me some dough. And this time, I plan on keepin' it... Well, at least a little bit."

Green invited Golf Digest to several interview sessions at his modest home in West Palm Beach, Fla. Though he has mellowed a bit over the years, Green still has refreshingly blunt opinions on tour life, his fellow players and himself.

Golf Digest: When you were on tour in the '80s you had a reputation for being a rebel. What does that stem from?

Ken Green: For whatever reason, I never really liked people telling me what to do. I've always been that way. I might handle it differently now, but I'm still not going to let someone tell me how I should act. Was it good that I ended up being a golfer? There are tons of guys like me, but nobody knows about them. I was in the public eye, so I took the heat.

You didn't seem to worry about the ramifications.

You know the bizarre thing? I can honestly tell you that I held back a lot. I'm like, "If they only knew what I really wanted to say..."

You're back on tour after a series of personal problems. How large was your debt going into the 2003 season?

I was about $300,000 in the hole.

Were you ever in deeper than that?

No, it's always been in that area. You try to pay the debts off, but when you're not making money, it's hard. And then my IRS deb... well, they don't have a prayer unless I do well out on tour. I'm getting "play well" cards all the time from the IRS.

What were the tough times like?

I certainly was months behind on some bills. You play the hockey back and forth -- you pay this guy, then you pay that guy. You take this credit card and pay that bill. Anyone who's been in financial difficulty understands how you play the juggle game.

What was your reaction last fall at the Q school when you got your tour card back? Was it happiness or relief?

The best thing was instead of panicking or choking on the last nine, I had the same sensation I've had a few times in trying to win golf tournaments in the last nine holes. And for that, I was ecstatic, because that's how you should be thinking, instead of thinking how you're going to choke and blow it. I still have a lot of room there for improvement, trust me.

You hit the skids when, the early '90s?

But I hung on and kept my card.

People thought you were a little crazy.

That's what some people believed. I think they're the crazy ones. Finally I got the mental yips full bore, and I lost it totally. I couldn't play. It's impossible to play when you have 20 different people in your brain trying to scare you. There's not one positive guy in there.

What are the mental yips like?

Before I even got over the ball, I knew I was going to miss it. It didn't matter if it was two feet, four feet. It's just horrifying. Playing on a professional level, it's pretty tough. Having one moment is not a big deal. I was having them every time I was over the shot.

What was it like being mentally blocked over the ball?

There were times I couldn't drag it back with a sand wedge. I knew before I even got over the ball I had no chance of hitting a pro-quality shot.

I remember how fearless I used to be in how I attacked the golf course. And all of a sudden I was the biggest coward. I'm going for a par 5, I might have 220 to the thing. If it was over water, I was laying up, because I knew I couldn't pull the trigger. Wouldn't matter if I had a 5-wood in my hand or a 3-iron, I'd panic. That's how bad it got. I can sit here and laugh about it now, but obviously there wasn't a whole lot of laughter when I was going through it. I can't tell you how many times I would look at myself and go, What are you doing?

What are you thinking about?

Any specific examples?

I remember the Bob Hope one year. Had to be '97 or '98. The whole place is a real estate development. I was actually missing the houses out-of-bounds. I didn't go in the back yards, which were facing the golf course, I was hitting the ball in the front yards. I was hitting 50, 60, 70, sometimes 80 yards off line, just because I was in such a panic.

This was before you got medication for depression?

Even during. There were two separate wars for me. The first war was just trying to get out of the depression, and then the next war was trying to get rid of the demons, as I refer to them.

There are tons and tons of people who will live their whole lives in a depression, because they don't ever seek help. And then there are the other people who are in depression who kill themselves. Obviously those people don't win the battle, either.

Ever get that desperate?

Well, I certainly was suicidal. I went to bed every night praying I didn't have to wake up and deal with this planet anymore. When you'd wake up in the morning, you were [angry] because you did wake up.

You didn't want to get out of bed sometimes?

Oh, absolutely. You'd sleep 12, 13, 14 hours. Other times you'd sleep only two.

Did you ever come close to ending it, finding yourself in a car on the edge of a cliff, like John Daly?

Every day. It wasn't a question of if, it was a question of when. It was a daily thought for about seven months. I toyed with the car in the garage, carbon monoxide. Doing that or pills. I don't think I'd have done a cliff thing -- I'm scared of heights.

Was that angst caused by what was going on with your family?

There's no doubt that the reason I lost it was because of the personal problems. The divorce and losing the kids, it was too much for me. There was a five-, six-year battle. I just didn't have the strength to deal with it, and I finally collapsed.

When did you get the diagnosis?

It was probably around '98 that I went to see someone.

Was it hard for you to open up to the doctors who were treating you?

Not really, because I'm a talker. Clearly it's gotten me in trouble numerous times. I remember sitting in the doctor's office the first time. After I told him the deal, he was like, "OK, you're in a state of depression." I thought, Of course I'm depressed -- life sucks pretty much right about now. I didn't understand that this is a treatable depression.

A good portion of people have to go on antidepressants for only four or five months, and they may never have to do it again. I'm not one of those. My feeling is, it's not real hard to take one pill a day.

How did you react when the doctor said you needed to get on the medication? Any qualms?

I was relieved, because I thought I was going nuts. You're like an inch away from Jack Nicholson in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" -- I'm going to have those dopey pajamas, and I'm going to be looking out the window wondering what's happening. That's what you're thinking. The problem is, all those little demons were still in my brain. Just because I'm mentally healthy and I can start attacking life again, my next battle was getting these puppies out of there. All the negative thoughts, the panic, the fear and anxiety.

The guy who probably has the demons in his game as bad as I did is Seve. The difference between Seve and me is, he'll never admit it. I feel for the guy, which is surprising, because I've never been a Seve fan.

What was the first of your problems with Seve -- when you got in the middle of that ruling over a drop he wanted to take at Augusta in 1989?

He always played the little stupid games, with the walking or the coughing while you were hitting -- that kind of stuff. Was it because he was in his own little world and didn't realize it, or is he doing it intentionally?

What do you remember about that situation on the 10th hole at Augusta in '89, when he was trying to get a favorable ruling in the final round?

That's a nice way of phrasing it. He had played a phenomenal front nine and was tied for the lead. Just pull-hooked it on the 10th, ended up in a slight indent. I went over to look. He had a shot, except for the fact that he couldn't get a 3-iron up over this little knoll right in front of him. So I was like, Tough break; he's going to have to pitch out. Next thing I know I see him preparing to drop. I had to hoof it all the way back to see what the hell was going on. That's when the official said, "At Augusta we have this local rule, if it's crowd damage, we give the player a drop." Seve's particular interpretation of crowd damage was people just walking and the grass being matted down. That's when I said, "No, no, no -- I'm not accepting this." That's when they called for another ruling. [Michael Bonallack, Royal & Ancient secretary at the time, denied Ballesteros the drop, and Nick Faldo went on to win.

Is there anything as a golfer that you've got now that Seve doesn't?

Well, I got my brain back and he doesn't, so I guess I'm 1 up on him there. But I respect the fact that he's still fighting and he's still trying. For that, I'd shake his hand and go on.

Beyond Seve, you've had your share of controversies at Augusta.

I got absolutely slammed when I played my last Masters in '97 with the Raymond Floyd thing after I played with Palmer. I got absolutely crucified.

Part of that was because you wanted to have a beer while playing with Arnie?

It was a combination. I had the beer on the 15th hole. That was the first time I had played with Arnie. A bunch of the reporters wanted to know what it was like to play with different superstars. I can remember Nicklaus the first time. I remember Seve the first time. You know, the Watsons, the Floyds. And that's why I mentioned the Floyd thing.

I played with Floyd at Doral in '83 or '84. I was dumbfounded that the guy wouldn't say a word to us, and I was playing with a good friend of mine. Floyd didn't say a word. Then after he made a questionable drop [something Floyd vehemently denies], he was very nice to play with.

I probably opened my mouth wider than I should have, even though it was truthful. Would I do it today? Probably not. But I'm a different person now.

You got hit with a fine and discussed the incident with the commissioner, correct?

I was fined $3,000, and at the time I was broke, so it was pretty hard. I remember going back and forth with [Tim] Finchem on this for about 15 minutes. I said, "Well, it's the truth.'' I'll never forget his response to that: "The truth doesn't matter.'' That just boggled my mind. How do you respond to that? You can't.

The PGA Tour's comment: "Commissioner Finchem pointed out that the relevant factor here was not the particulars of any dispute Ken Green may have had with another player, but rather his disparaging public comments about a fellow tour member, which is a violation of PGA Tour regulations."

So what was the deal with the beer with Arnie?

I really didn't know Arnie, and I knew for a fact that I was probably never going to be around him again. I like beer, and I know Arnie likes to dabble. It was like, I've got to have a beer with Arnie. I mean, how could I not? This is my only chance. So I had my buddy go buy me a beer.

At a concession tent?

Yeah, got me a beer. That's when I said, "Arnie, I've got to have a beer with you, so I'm having one." It was the second round. Shot an awful score [87] the first day. I was going to withdraw. I'd had a broken thumb. Then I found out I was playing with Palmer, so I was going to play. It was great. We talked, we chitchatted.

But again, you got a letter afterward for breaking a tour rule?

I had my friend write in saying it was a nonalcoholic beer, and the tour rescinded the fine. I'm like, How could you honestly believe that was the truth? So, to clear the air on this . . .

I would never have a nonalcoholic beer with Arnie. And I did birdie the hole, by the way. One of the few I made all day.

What do you remember about playing with some of the other superstars?

Nicklaus, the first time I played with him, he was so nice to play with, it was scary. It was at Pebble, the '82 Open. This was just a practice round, but here's God in the golf world, as far as I'm concerned, and he was polite, he was talkative, he'd ask questions. He was perfect. He disappeared for a hole and got everyone peach ice-cream cones. I'd ended up playing with Jack and Tom Weiskopf.

How did you get in with that group?

This is a practice round. The starter had just told me that it might be hours and hours before I could get off. I told him, "I'll just wait and play with somebody." Forty minutes later, Jack and Tom walked up along with 3,000 other people, and I didn't think anything about it. Until the starter says -- I'll never forget this -- he says, "Jack, do you have a tee time?" Jack says, "No." And the starter says, "Well, you can go right off."

Rank has its privileges.

Yeah. I'll never forget it, because my knees were actually shaking on the first tee. All I could think about was, I hope they don't see that my knees are shaking. I was absolutely petrified.

Anything from that day stand out?

On the 18th hole they both absolutely bombed their tee shots. You've got to remember, this is back in the persimmon for you.'' In that case square grooves had actually hurt me by leaving me with a downhill six-footer instead of a tap-in. I just thought that was kind of cold.

Almost an insult.

It was an insult. There's no other way of looking at it. But when you're as good as he was . . . One thing these guys all have in common is their egos. And they're very seldom wrong.

Lee Trevino?

Lee was nice enough to do me a favor and come play in one of my tournaments, but I think he's the ultimate PR-game player. He puts on the face exactly when he needs to.

Turns it on and off?

And he can be kind of cold and rude to people. But again, I'd much prefer to play with Lee than a Nick Faldo or a Seve or somebody like that, because at least Lee's going to talk. It might be some bizarre things, but at least he's going to talk.

Payne Stewart?

The first thing that comes to mind was a team event played in Japan in 1989. We were all flying over together and had a first-class section with about 12 of us. We were all having a good ol' time. The next thing you know, Payne and Curtis [Strange] were getting into a friendly little roll-about on the floor.

Over what?

Who knows? We were playing cards. After spending 12 or 13 hours on a plane, you go a little nuts with everybody.


I remember Calc [Mark Calcavecchia] and I whacked Curtis and Zinger [Paul Azinger] at St. Andrews in 1990. It took Curtis about three or four days to pay me. I had to keep embarrassing him to pay me. Arnold Palmer got on him, too, and he finally left a check in my locker.

How much money are you talking about?

It was $300.

You were known as one of the great practice-round gamblers.

I love to gamble. I'd be lying if I told you I didn't.

Do you recall any specifics from one of your big-money matches?

Zinger and Blaine McCallister played Calc and me at the Players Championship, and they finished birdie, birdie, eagle, birdie, birdie and clipped us for $2,500. Blaine chipped in on the last hole to just really stick it to us.

Is it a concern getting into those kinds of games and the possibility of losing that kind of money now when you really can't afford it?

It would be tricky, there's no doubt about it. I certainly wouldn't play unless I had the money to bet or unless Calc was going to do the old sponsor thing. If I start playing better, that won't be an issue.

What about your gambling exploits off the course?

The funny thing about all that stuff: I probably had my luckiest stretches when I had no money. And when I did have money and gambled on the golf course and in casinos, I lost. I don't know why.

There was one streak that's been written about. It was during your first divorce in the mid-'80s when you were trying to dig your way out of debt and you bet on a bunch of NBA games.

Basketball, of all things. Imagine that.

And you won?

Hit 23 out of 24 games. That was a desperate search for money. That was to keep playing on the tour.

How much did you win off that streak?

It wasn't a whole lot. About $3,500. But at the time, that was huge and got me started.

You always lived a bit on the edge. People thought it was pretty outrageous when you were sneaking your buddies into the Masters in the trunk of the car.

In that situation, which I think is an all-time classic, you have to do what you have to do. Let's face it: I didn't have the tickets. My ex-wife [Ellen] had them. She wouldn't give them to me.

Why wouldn't she give you the tickets?

Because we were fighting. Half the people who were there were her family members, but no one could get her to send the tickets. And I still thought she would eventually send them, that common sense would prevail. It didn't, and that's when we had to go to the plan: "Sneak Attack."

It was 1989, and it just turned into one of those "everyone's coming to the Masters" deals. I had maxed out on my tickets. I think they give you eight as a player, and you were entitled to buy another eight. I can tell the story now. I went into the Masters office. I said, "I'm going to go in there and tell them the truth and just see if I can buy eight more tickets." I go in and I was talking to the secretary. I told her the whole thing, and she looks at me and says, "No. You need to get your wife under control." I was like, "The truth sucks sometimes."

So I had no choice. We had to get them in somehow. And so that's what we did. It was in shifts.

You've been known for stunts -- hitting balls from your living room through sliding-glass doors, chipping balls through windows of rental cars. Do you ever feel you're being reckless?

Clearly you can't defend it, and I wouldn't try to. Was it fun, and did we have a great time doing it? Absolutely. Do I still do it? Absolutely.

I certainly wouldn't defend whacking balls out of hotel rooms. I've done it out of my house a thousand times. But we've done it in hotels hundreds of times. Trying to hit targets. In Hawaii it might be from one room to the pool across the street -- in Hawaii, a lot of pools are on the top floors.

There are a lot of challenges to these shots. We don't do it to cause any harm, and we never have. It's not like we're shooting at people out there on the beach or something, trying to knock somebody off. We do it at the right time. How I've never hit and broken anything is still one of the most amazing achievements a man can have.

You also used to have contests hitting short shots through the open windows of rental cars. No broken glass?

You've got to understand, you're only hitting chip shots. I have handicap requirements. We're not talking abut hackers playing. One of my sons broke a windshield once at the Masters.

When we did an article recounting all your fines years ago, you had an even dozen. Since then you've doubled them. How did those come about?

You'd be amazed at how many letters the tour receives about certain people's behavior. It can be me, it can be Calc. The tour always followed up on the letters they got about me.

Does any one fine stand out?

I got fined on a Tuesday practice round for signing autographs at the PGA at Bellerive in '92. I was playing with Calc, Payne and Freddie. They were all waiting on the tee not doing anything, and I was signing autographs. And a guy just said, "What do you think of the course?" All I said was, "Are you a member?" When he said no, I said, "Course sucks." Simple as that. Somebody from the tour's PR department happened to be walking by and reported it, and I got whacked for it. Go figure.

What would you say the over/under is on you getting fined this year as you get back on tour regularly?

The one thing that will probably get me in trouble is the swearing. I'm a swearer. I'm not saying that is a good thing, I'm not saying it's a bad thing. In all honesty, it probably isn't the best habit to have, and it's not even in anger. It's just a casual, "Oh, bleep."

One of the stories that has been in the news a lot lately is women playing in PGA Tour events. There was the Connecticut pro, Suzy Whaley, who qualified for the Greater Hartford Open. What do you make of that?

You're trying to kill me. . . . I think it's idiotic. I respect her and I respect that she played in the [PGA section] tournament and won and all that, but I think it's absolutely ridiculous for her to play in the tournament. Clearly she should have been playing the back tees in the club-pro tournament if she wanted a spot in the GHO.

Knowing the golf course pretty well, how do you think she'll fare?

If she plays great, she's going to shoot a couple of 83s, 84s. If she gets a little nervous and the ball starts going a little off line. . . . it's just going to be a battle for her. It really is. It sounds like she's got a decent head and she's not expecting anything special. But why bother then?

What about Annika Sorenstam playing in a PGA Tour event?

I guess if Annika plays really well, she might be able to make the cut. That's the best she could do. And this is going to come out the wrong way again, but there's a reason why women are women and men are men. But in terms of sports, there is no way -- their best of the best can't sniff our worst of the worst. But if this all starts, where does it end?

Are you going to play that week at Colonial?

I was going to shave my legs and put on a bra and see if I could get an exemption. I figure the more women who play, the better chance they have of winning.

Time to change subjects. With all your problems, did you ever think of doing something else?

Never even crossed my mind. Even when things were at their lowest point three or four years ago. Plus, let's be honest -- what else could I do? I'd never be a club pro. That's impossible. I could never tolerate the members, because that's just not my style of personality. So that's eliminated. So what else is left? I'd just as soon not find out.

There was not a doubt in my mind growing up that I was going to be a golf pro. I don't know what made me think that, because I stunk as a kid. I quit school when I was 16. My mom said, "Well, what are you going to do? You can't quit school." I said, "I'm going to be a golf pro." Obviously I ended up going back to school, but I did stay out for a month. But I can't say it enough: I love golf.

Did doctors ever suggest you might be better off in a less stressful job?

Clearly the psychiatrists thought that golf affected my ability to recover. So we had to work around that.

During your first divorce, the judge told you that you needed to grow up, quit playing golf and get a real job. What did you think at the time?

Our judicial system is a classic. I've had two judges. The first was dead serious: "Go get a real job." That was after my first year on tour, and I think I made like $12,000 or whatever it was. He didn't understand the concept of golf and how you earn your money. He just looked at the bottom line, like, "This boy's not making a dime. In fact, he's losing money." Soon after that I ended up winning.

What was the total bill on the second divorce, with lawyers and everything?

Just lawyers alone was a couple hundred thousand. I've got a room named after me on the sixth floor at Palm Beach County Courthouse, I was there so often.

Does your girlfriend, Jeanne, play golf?

I try not to date golfers.

Is it tough to maintain a marriage with the lifestyle of a tour pro? Do you think that was part of the problem?

I am absolutely, positively a believer that our lifestyle is the greatest lifestyle in the world. Think about it: You play 25 weeks out of the year. So you're home all the time for 27. Out of those 25, you've probably got eight or nine that are during the summer when your family's with you. There are a couple where you're staying at your house. So now you're down to about 12 tournaments where you're away from your family. And that's only for four or five days. So it's a slam-dunk. You can schedule your time around their activities. Michael Jordan has to play on Christmas; baseball players have to play every day.

Golfers, if there's something really important that you need to do with your kids for that particular week, you just take it off, you don't play. To say that this is a hard life is someone just being incredibly ignorant or spoiled. It's one or the other. And some of them actually have the nerve to come out and say, "This is very difficult."

They say you've got to juggle family and golf.

That's a load of baloney. You can't have a better life. I'm telling you, you can't.

So you think tour players have it too easy?

Absolutely. If you can't be happy in that scenario, you've got some serious issues with life.

What are some of the changes on tour since you were last out there regularly?

They try to spoil you even more, which is hard to imagine. They'll do just about anything for you. They'll fly back home and watch your animals if you want them to. And people wonder why some of the guys get the attitudes they do. When you're catered to from the get-go your whole life, it's easy to turn into a spoiled, egotistical moron. That's what happens.

Did the ordeal you've been through with divorce and depression, losing your life as you knew it, have any positive side effects?

I wouldn't have learned all the things I've learned. You might not believe this when you hear it, but I've actually become very religious. It's not like I've become a regular churchgoer or bible-toter; I still do my swearing and my gambling. But I've become a firm believer in God. What you have to do while you're here is just handle every adversity that you have, because that's the only way you get better. And when things are going great, help other people.

So many people look at adversity as a way of maturing. I haven't matured. I still do the same stupid things I used to do, whether it's whacking golf balls in places I shouldn't or whatever it may be. I just have a different philosophy on how I'm going to handle certain things.

Getting back on the tour is maybe the final little step for me. But it's going to be a fight. Obviously I'm old -- 44 years old.

You mean old in terms of your golf?

Yeah. The young players today just bomb the ball. I'm not a bomber of the golf ball. But I'm not as concerned about my driving distance as I thought I was going to be. I was worried I was just going to be slammed by their power. But there are plenty of courses where I've still got more than a good enough chance. I refuse to concede that there are that many guys out there who can beat me. Except for one guy, there are no stud muffins.

What did you do in terms of preparation for rejoining the main tour? Have you been on a fitness regimen?

I think the biggest workout I ever had was sex, and that would be about it. You know, I've dabbled in fitness a little more lately. But I don't have the desire or the motivation to make myself do it on a daily basis. I've tried, and it's just not there.

You're going to be wearing your trademark green shoes again, too.

The few people who remember me have been asking, "Where are the shoes? Are you bringing them back?'' Like I've got 34 pairs of them in my closet -- Mr. Marcos. Do you feel for some of the other players who have really lost it -- the Chip Becks and Ian Baker-Finches? Would you like to get together and talk about your struggles?

I would love to know if it was the demons that got them, or if they just lost their golf game. I refuse to believe that some of these guys just lost their games. The question is, how and why did the demons get in their brain? Baker-Finch is a classic case. Great guy. They don't get a whole lot nicer than Ian, and all of a sudden it happens. And it happens a lot.

Maybe you guys can form a club.

I don't think we'd want a whole lot of reunions.

What has your income been the last three or four years -- the $50,000 range?

Last year it was a little more, because I did make over $100,000 on the Tour. Previous to that, 40 or so, minus expenses. I definitely lost money.

There's no doubt about it.

Did your financial problems increase the stress?

I got into a terrible, terrible spiral trying to survive, money-wise. That's exactly what I was trying to do -- survive. I won't know until this year whether I've killed that demon or if he's just in a coma. Even last year I found myself worrying too much about the money on the last couple of holes. You know, If you do this, you do this, you make this. If you screw this hole up, you do that.

Do you ever fantasize about what would happen if you hit it really big and won a couple of times this year?

I'd be lying if I told you it hasn't crossed my mind that I could go out there and play really well. Could erase my debts.

If you were coming down the stretch against Tiger, could you unnerve him in any way?

I don't think anyone can unnerve Tiger. But I'd rather come down the stretch against Tiger than somebody else who hasn't won. Nobody would expect me or anyone like me to even come close to beating Tiger.

Have you met Tiger?

I met him during the four-hour fog delay in San Diego.

What were your impressions?

Pretty much what I had always thought -- seems to be a pretty good guy. A few of us killed some time playing pop-a-quarter-into-the-glass, scary as that may be. Using the fork, you know, where you bang the fork and the quarter goes flying up in the air and all that. Well, that's one thing Tiger's not going to dominate the world in, flipping quarters. I casually mentioned that he was using inferior equipment; he needed a different fork.

What was your take on that whole equipment brouhaha between Tiger and Phil Mickelson?

I don't understand what's wrong with Tiger saying, You know, I just don't like Phil. There are 150, 200 guys out here. I can't like everybody, and everybody can't like me. So Nos. 1 and 2 happen not to really like each other. Big deal. It's even better. Look what they used to do with Jack and Arnie.

Instead, the instinct is to try to patch it all up and smooth things over. Well, they think they have to. That's the way the game is played these days.

Does golf still bring you joy?

I love golf more now than I ever have. I clearly took golf for granted when I was playing, and I was that young idiot sometimes. Just thinking you're something special and you don't have to worry about anything.

How do you think you'll be remembered in golf?

Well, of the few who will remember me, there are going to be a ton of people who will remember the image that I have: He was a rebel. He was too outspoken. He had no class. He was disrespectful. I'll probably never change that. But I do think that the average golfer, Joe Public -- which is how I consider myself -- likes the kind of person I am. Would I like more people to respect and admire me? Probably. Who wouldn't? Everybody's got an ego, but I'm also a realist.

Do you think your turnaround will make you a better competitor, or do you think you'll be all the more fragile?

I can give you the answer that I would like it to be, but it wouldn't be the honest answer. There's a part of me that's very concerned and scared about letting these little demons back in -- will I panic because it's the big tour? Will I try too hard? Do I try to accomplish too much, too fast? Those are all things that I have to be very, very aware of and just let it happen. Talk to me in December, I guess. We'll find out.