Day one of the PGA Championship started with words, written and spoken, that misfired as wildly as the man to whom they were discussing, Tiger Woods, had the week before when he finished next to last in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
A long day of televised golf on TNT began with Peter Kostis having been asked what Woods' measure of success would be this week.
"That's the question," Kostis replied. "Historically, his gold standard has been win or nothing else counts. That's what Tiger has lived for his entire career. I don't think that's the case this week. I think really for him a performance that qualifies him for the Ryder Cup and puts to rest all of that chaos around -- will he be picked? will he not be picked? -- for the Ryder Cup team, if he qualifies for the Ryder Cup team I think he'll ultimately consider this week a success."
One thing we know for certain about Woods: Anything less than winning is unacceptable, whatever his issues (see U.S. Open, 2008). This, too, is a certainty: In his list of goals for the week, securing a Ryder Cup berth is at least a distant second.
David Feherty had a better summation of what to expect. "As badly as he seems, or is perceived, to have played, he finishes fourth in the first two [majors] and I think he was in the top 25 in the [British] Open. The tournaments that matter the most to him, he goes to the well and seems to be able to draw something out of there."
TNT compounded Kostis' misread by failing to explain the cause of the Ryder Cup "chaos" to which he alluded: Jim Gray of the Golf Channel and his spirited dispute with U.S. Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin over whether the latter told the former that Woods was certain to be among the captain's wild card picks.
More notable moments from the telecast:
-- Kostis recovered nicely in noting that Woods had a different aura on Thursday than he demonstrated a week ago.
"We're seeing perhaps the restoration of order in golf, the fact that Tiger is starting to play a lot better, starting to look like the old Tiger, with his chip shots a lot cleaner, crisper, his putting and so forth," Kostis said. "You can't play good golf with a bad attitude. Obviously we know you can't play with a bad swing, either. The swing is easier to fix than the attitude. It looks like he's made a big dent in fixing both of those problems."
Ian Baker-Finch concurred and even made the observation that Woods appeared to have quit the week before.
"He's more into it today than I've seen for a long while," Baker-Finch said. "He certainly looked to me like he gave up in the last round last week. I was really surprised to see him actually hit a couple of shots on the run last week. That's unusual for him. He was so down, so dejected. I'm surprised to see him so fired up just four days later."
-- Feherty, in his inimitable fashion, on Woods releasing his club on the follow-through after a pitiful swing on the fifth hole (his 14th): "That's a follow-through for the ages. That is like a V-22 Osprey. Could have been a fixed wing or a rotary."
A V-22 Osprey, incidentally, is a tilt-rotor aircraft, a helicopter and airplane hyrbrid.
-- Ernie Johnson read this from Stephen Gallacher, describing the start of a foggy day at Whistling Straits: "I got here at 5:45, had my breakfast and went out. Even though it was foggy you have to prepare as it could lift so quickly. So I did my warmup and then it just came right in. Back in, another breakfast, back out for some chipping, back in for another breakfast of some toast and fruit, back out in earnest. Teed off and there was a slight delay and it never really picked up. I didn't see the ball land until the fifth hole."
On the print front was a column from the New York Times' George Vecsey that blogger Geoff Shackelford called "the worst Tiger column I've ever read."
Vecsey wondered whether "any great athlete, at the top of any sport, ever had his or her game blown to smithereens so fast."
As Shackelford and Feherty both alluded, in the three most important tournaments of the year, Woods tied for fourth in two of them (the Masters and U.S. Open) and finished T23 in the other (the British Open). Should he win the PGA Championship, it will have been a great year, as Woods has described any year in which he won a major championship.
It's a little early for a postmortem, isn't it?
The Times recovered exceptionally with this timely story from Thomas Kaplan on how psoriatic arthritis, the disorder that Phil Mickelson revealed he has, effectively ended the playing career of Bob Murphy.
Finally, TNT tacked an extra hour onto its telecast in response to the three-hour, 10 minute fog delay that started the day.
Eight hours of televised golf? It's enough time for a couple of naps.
-- John Strege