The golf world has never seen Tiger Woods like this before a big tournament

Tiger Woods is happy and loose at the Masters, and the golf world has no idea what to make of it.

For the first two decades of his career Tiger strived to be seen as a “real athlete” rather than just a golfer. He cultivated an icy, intimidating on-course persona that’s more reminiscent of Michael Jordan than, say, Fred Couples. He was short with the media, cold with his fellow players, and careful to never reveal his weaknesses or vulnerabilities.

That’s not the Tiger we’re seeing this week.

He showed up on Monday and immediately went to the practice chipping area, where he worked on his short game while listening to music:

In his press conference on Tuesday he said he was listening to a 300-song hip-hop playlist and, “I wanted to just rock out.”

Robert Lusetich, a Fox Sports golf writer who has written a book on Tiger, said he’s never seen Tiger like this at the Masters.

“Woods once famously walked through the Augusta National clubhouse getting ready for a Sunday Masters run and was so enveloped in his cocoon that he ignored even the goodwill wishes of his mother and Nike chairman Phil Knight,” he wrote.

“Remember when he gave beatdowns to the pretenders to his throne? Now he’s giving them bro hugs.”

During his practice rounds early in the week, he was passing out hugs left and right. There were lots of laughs:

As Jason Sobel of ESPN put it, “Through the first three days of Masters week, Woods has hugged, glad-handed and smiled his way around Augusta National.”

The golf writer Geoff Schackelford wrote a post about Tiger getting into a long, detailed conversation with someone about hickory clubs at the Masters champions dinner. His lede: “OK this Tiger charm offensive has reached epic proportions now that he is asking about hickory clubs! Is he running for office?”

On Wednesday he played the Par 3 Contest for the first time in 11 years. His two kids joined him on the course, as well as his girlfriend Lindsey Vonn: 

Armchair psychologists can have a field day with this. Is this personality shift real or fake? Is it a sign of confidence or an admission of defeat? Will he revert to Old Tiger when he finally steps between the ropes?

The hope is that this is a kind of rebirth — that in a new, final phase of his career he’s adopted a New Tiger persona that’s easier to sustain than the old one.

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