New Tiger, old Tiger, they both sound the same

He still curses. He still tosses clubs. His interviews, still,

are clipped and smug – the few he gives, that is.

This new version of Tiger Woods was supposed to be warmer,

fuzzier, someone who showed more respect for the game and all those

fans who’ve made him a very rich man. A year later, it appears as

if the only thing about Woods that’s really changed is his ability

to win.

No one expected Woods to become Phil Mickelson when he returned

to the game following the swiftest, sharpest downfall of a star

athlete in recent memory. Taming his temper and ego was going to be

as big a project as his swing change, and he’s having about as much

luck.

Sure, he’ll occasionally wave as he walks off the tee, make eye

contact with fans here and there. He has stopped during pro-am

rounds to pose for pictures. He’s even embraced Twitter, showing a

charming personality in 140 characters or less. Those things are

relatively easy to do, however. When it comes to basic course

etiquette and being more accessible, he can’t seem to be

bothered.

He was fined for spitting on the green during the final round of

the Dubai Desert Classic earlier this year. He cursed enough during

the Masters that CBS’ coverage probably should have come with a

”parental discretion is advised” disclaimer. His interview with

Bill Macatee after shooting a 67 on Sunday was needlessly testy,

making his uncomfortable chat with Peter Kostis a year earlier look

like a fireside chat.

Even when he does talk, he sidesteps the most mundane questions

about how his life has changed, and treats reasonable inquiries

about the state of his game with disdain.

”When he was at his height, he was great golfer and had a very

likable persona,” said Michael Gordon, a principal at Group Gordon

Strategic Communications, a corporate and crisis firm in New York.

”Both are missing right now.”

Woods is hardly the first flawed golfing hero. Arnold Palmer was

criticized for smoking. Ben Hogan was considered aloof. John Daly

makes soap operas seem dull. And even Woods’ boorish antics were

overlooked while he piled up wins in record numbers and closed in

on Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors. If his Sunday run at the

Masters was any indication, all will be forgiven if he starts

winning again.

But with nary a title in almost 17 months, patience with his

tantrums and pouting is wearing thin.

Before the sex scandal, Woods had a Q Score – the measure of

likeability among consumers – of 28, second only to Michael Jordan

among athletes. Now his Q Score is 14, putting him in the same

company as serial problem children Terrell Owens and Randy

Moss.

”He was never the most personable athlete out there by any

means. He always had that attitude, but it fell by the wayside

because he was a champion. That’s not the case now,” said Henry

Schafer, executive vice president of The Q Scores Company. ”This

is where he’s at, and that’s what people are going to focus on

until he starts winning.”

His spitting incident in Dubai caused so much outrage that Royal

& Ancient chief executive Peter Dawson suggested this week that

the PGA and European tours make their disciplinary actions

public.

”I would not want to give the impression in any way that the

standards of behavior in golf are poor,” Dawson told the Press

Association on Tuesday at Royal St. George’s. ”I think they are

very high, and golf is still held up as a model for many other

sports. These particular incidents that we see do get a great deal

of publicity and rightly so.”

Woods has carefully crafted his image, and he’s not about to

give up that control now. But big-time sports are equal parts

entertainment and athletics, and there’s a price to pay for being

the first $1 billion athlete.

If Woods wants folks to shell out $49.99 for the Tiger Woods PGA

Tour 12 video game or pay $230 for the privilege of wearing his TW

Air Zoom golf shoes, he’s got to give something back.

Otherwise, don’t be surprised if fans start drifting to some of

the game’s other personalities – like the little girl standing

behind the 18th green at Augusta National wearing a Rickie Fowler

hat and Puma shoes.

”If you are a billion-dollar brand, which he is, and at the top

of your game, which he is, there is a limit to the amount of

privacy that a person can reasonably expect,” Gordon said.

This doesn’t mean Woods needs his own reality show. Or that he

should become a Twitter fiend like Ian Poulter. Or that he can’t

throw a fit in frustration on the course.

Just rein it in a bit.

After all these months retooling his game, Woods should put a

little effort into retooling his personality, too.

Nancy Armour is a National Writer for The Associated Press.

Write to her at narmour(at)ap.org