Friday, March 28, 2008

Taming Tiger's Tongue

Tiger Woods just might be bigger than the game of golf given his appeal to non-golfers, but that’s not enough. Maybe he is the greatest player of all time, but apparently he’s toting a 27 handicap when it comes to social graces.

The latest incident stems from the CA Championship at Doral. Evidently a photographer snapped a picture as Tiger was making his transition from his backswing to the ball. Tiger said it made him flinch and he missed the par 3 ninth green to the left. He immediately launched a profanity-laced tirade. When he finally holed out for bogey, he continued his tirade on his way to the 10th tee.

The latter loud tongue lashing included, “if you take another bleeping picture, I’m going to break your bleeping neck.” Considering that the huge gallery contained a lot of kids and women, better control of his language would have been a good fit here.

Unfortunately, the only reason all of this came to light was it was picked up on TV. This was hardly the debut of Tiger’s blue standup routine. I can’t tell you how many times he has littered the countryside with F-Bombs during the course of play with nary a photographer within earshot. It has often gotten to the point where parents accompanying their kids to watch their idol in person had all they could stand after two holes and got as far from Tiger’s group as possible.

Why doesn’t the PGA Tour do something about this? In a follow up article to the Doral incident, John Daly was quoted saying that Tiger felt that he was the most fined player on Tour. Let’s see, you make $100 million a year and you’re fined $10,000? Now, there’s a deterrent.

Here’s how far it’s gotten out of hand. Tiger agreed to an ESPN interview about the incident. Among his replies were such gems as “there’s been a lot worse said out there.” Little did anyone know it was said by him. “It was the heat of the moment and I got a little hot.” This was said in response of a question asking if he regretted his choice of language. Tiger had a tap in to recoup his reputation and shanked it.

I take you back a few years when Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus were paving the way for players like Tiger to have an opportunity to earn untold millions. Trust me, they had the total attention of the media. Unfortunately, the photographers that often followed them had little or no understanding of golf photography and the shutters in the cameras of the day were a lot louder. To be fair, the writers who often covered the travails of Jack and Arnie were sent to the tournament as a penance by a vindictive sports editor. He didn’t know anything and that could be at least as frustrating for players of that stature.

Unlike “The Golfer Formerly Known as Eldrich,” Arnold and Jack held their tongues. If there was a rebuke, it was issued civilly. They were aware of their status and how their actions and words would reflect on the game and the PGA Tour. That’s called class. What Tiger did can be called class as well. Unfortunately, it’s low class.

I’m positive that Tiger isn’t the only player who drops the F-Bomb on the course, but by virtue of his status, he’s the lead bombardier.

It’s time for the PGA Tour to get into the game and start announcing fines. The NBA is more than happy to announce that Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was fined $250,000 for cussing out a referee. The NFL couldn’t have gone public quicker when it came to the Patriots Bill Belicheck and Spygate. Major League baseball immediately goes public with fines and suspensions without regard to the status of the player.

The professional golfer should be accountable for his WORDS and ACTIONS. In most instances the offense was made publicly. Why should the punishment be exacted in private? Maybe, just maybe, public disclosure for being a foul mouth boor might get Tiger, et al to take a glance at a thesaurus once in a while.

In closing, I have two questions for Tiger. In two, or three years, or even today, would you speak like that in Sam Alexis’ presence? Then why is it okay to speak like that in front of other parent’s kids?

Bartender, please pour a tall, cool glass of Liquid Drano for Mr. Woods and I’ll have a glass of ice water, so I don’t get caught up in the heat of the moment.

See you on the first tee.


Monday, March 17, 2008

What a great week to be Timmie Finchem

What a great week it’s been to be Timmie Finchem. First, Tripp Isenhour is charged with misdemeanor cruelty to animals for killing a protected hawk during the filming of an instructional DVD. Then it was Timmie’s living nightmare, John Daly being disqualified for missing a Wednesday Pro-Am tee time at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.
Little did Timmie know that Isenhour would gather as much attention as Ike, or that Daly’s ouster would cause such a ruckus as to find its way to lead pages on web servers and have its own slot on ESPN’s Sports Center.

No, it hasn’t been a good week to be Timmie Finchem.

While Isenhour was filming an instructional DVD, production was continually halted because of the loud and boisterous hawk. Isenhour thought that a few well-placed golf shots into the tree would scare the hawk away. As luck (or lack thereof) would have it, one of the shots hit and killed the bird.

No one ever wants to kill an animal (Michael Vick and crew aside) and certainly Isenhour meant no bodily harm to the hawk, but the bird was definitely a hindrance in what is always a costly production. He was trying to scare the hawk out of the tree—period. Accidentally, the hawk got hit and died. Let it be. Now people are talking about $10,000 fines and probation, or time. Why?
I love animals and really wouldn’t want to hurt one, but let me ask you this. If it was a protected snake he hit and killed, would you REALLY be all that upset? Probably not. I know I must have missed the memo about animals having equal, or rights exceeding those of humans. Please everyone—get a life. The word “accident” is in the dictionary for reasons such as this.

Come to think of it, there’s a more rational argument for the hawk’s accidental death. If Tripp Isenhour was really that accurate, would he have lost his PGA Tour card and be relegated to the Nationwide Tour? I think not.

Le problème qui est John Daly. Timmie, you’re silence is deafening on this one and we think we might know why.

At the request of tournament host Arnold Palmer, Daly agreed to play in a second Pro Am for two reasons. First, he’s there on a sponsor exemption. Second, it’s Arnold Palmer and you always help the King—gladly.

Daly had already played in his obligatory Pro Am on Monday and agreed to play in a second. On Tuesday, practicing at nearby Celebration, he called the Bay Hill pro shop and asked for his tee time. He was given his tee time for Thursday’s first round and not the hour earlier tee time for Wednesday. He missed that tee time and under PGA Tour rules was disqualified.

Timmie, this is where you could have been a hero. You could have stepped in and noted that John was doing a personal favor for the tournament host. He was given erroneous information. (Okay, he could have driven over to Bay Hill and found an official to get his tee time which no one ever does). You could have made a decision to include Daly in the field noting he’d fulfilled his Pro Am participation according to the rules. If you had, Nick O’Hern and Ryuji Imada wouldn’t have been DQ’d as well for not being on property to fill in as alternates.

I’m sure Timmie could have done a lot of things that would have pleased the players and the fans, but he didn’t. Let’s face it, JD doesn’t have the clout of, say, Phil Mickelson. It was okay to cut Phil a break but not John Daly. Hmmm. That’s strange.

Last year at the EDS Byron Nelson Championship, Phil had a one-day corporate outing in Arkansas. Rather than fly back to Dallas/Ft. Worth Tuesday night in his private jet, knowing he had a Wednesday afternoon tee time, decided to wait until the morning to return.

As luck would have it, the airport was fogged in Wednesday morning and all flights were grounded. Phil missed his tee time—but he played in the tournament. All it took was a quick mea culpa at the feet of St. Timmie and he was absolved of his sin. To his credit, Phil pounced on the opportunity and finished T3 cashing for just over $300K.

I know golf isn’t fair, but you’d think the PGA Tour might figure that what’s good for one is good for all.

Please don’t dismiss missing his tee time as JD being drunk again. Reliable witnesses say it wasn’t so. Also, to his credit, until Bay Hill, JD hadn’t missed a tee time on the PGA Tour.
Chances are, Arnold felt sincere empathy for JD. In the early 70’s, the King was playing in a Senior Tour event called the Marlboro (MA) Classic. He called into the pro shop for his first round tee time. The assistant who answered the phone mistakenly gave him his second round time. Arnold Palmer was disqualified. JD is sharing angst with one of the greatest of all time, who by the way, never returned to that tournament.

Tuesday wasn’t a great day at all for JD. When he awoke that morning and read the paper. A story about how Butch Harmon had fired him as a student. Harmon was quoted as saying that John was more interested in getting drunk than improving his game. Butch cited the Saturday of the PODS Championship when John appeared at the Hooters Nest, a pavilion behind the 17th green. John signed autographs, ate a lot of wings and drank some beer with the fans. Butch thought John should have been working on his game.

Butch shouldn’t have thrown JD under the bus like that. He could have just said we’ve decided to part ways. By the way, couldn’t Butch have called or sent a text message to John instead of having him read it in the paper? If he doesn’t think JD was acting professionally, what does he call his actions?

While a lot of us would love to spend a Saturday afternoon the same way, John wanted to be there even more. He has an endorsement contract with Hooters and personal appearances are a part of his contract. The chain was founded and the corporate offices are just down the road from Innisbrook. Maybe he should have been in the Hooters Nest doing what he’s paid to do.
There was a very questionable situation JD got into on Thursday during a rain delay at the PODS. Instead of going to the club house, he headed for the shelter of the Hooters Nest. It looked bad, but he didn’t have anything to drink. However, he did change caddies. When play resumed, he had Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden under the straps. This led to a quick seven over par 78 which was followed by a second round 80 and another missed cut. During a round isn’t the time to play games. This was yet another sponsor exemption that he treated with disdain.

There are a lot of reasons for which John Daly should be called on the carpet, however those who gang up on him for this one are taking gratuitous shots. It appears that JD is the one to whom the Pro Am rule applies. There was a day when he would have received the same break as Mickelson. How soon Timmie forgets.

Bartender, pour my friend JD and I another cold Miller Lite and order us a plate of wings. It’s
Saturday afternoon and we want to watch some golf.

See you on the first tee.


Monday, March 10, 2008

Florida Swing no longer a birdie-fest

Remember when the Florida Swing of the PGA Tour was a veritable birdie-fest? Now in the second week, there aren’t a lot of smiles inside the ropes. The Honda Classic, once the Jackie Gleason Inverary Classic, has moved more times than Gleason ever saw his feet. This year it debuted at the PGA National Resort & Spa.

Played on the PGA National Championship Course where a Ryder Cup and a PGA Championship have been contested, par was a legitimately good score. This takes into account that normally the par is 72 and the Tour cut it back to 70, the winning score was six-under. Even at -14 it shows enough toughness. It also showed something else.

A few years back, the resort called upon Jack Nicklaus to toughen the three closing holes. Not only did he toughen the holes, but under certain weather conditions (the March wind being one of them) those holes are close to unplayable. “The Bear Trap” as it’s called proves that you can design brutally difficult holes with no regard for conditions and at times embarrass the golfer. It just seems a shame that you can have 15 demanding, but fair holes and then end the day with golf’s version of water boarding—all in the name of protecting par.

The good part of the Honda Classic was Ernie Els closing with a 3-under par 67 to win by one over Luke Donald. While it was Els’ first PGA Tour win since the 2004 Memorial, it was notable for another reason, it was his first tournament playing Callaway clubs.

While Els has been flying the Callaway colors for awhile, he hasn’t been playing their clubs. Like most Tour players, he has a clause in his contract that he’ll play the equipment once it’s approved by the player.

This is a clause inserted out of sheer panic on the players’ part. They all can either remember, or at least of heard of the fate that befell Corey Pavin. After the 1996 season, Pavin was offered a long term contract to play and endorse clubs made by PRGR, a Japanese manufacturer. The deal was lucrative, but it also was iron-clad. He had to play those clubs.

By the time the contract ended, pictures of Pavin’s game were appearing on the sides of milk cartons. He was physically and psychologically damaged. The contract was gone, but so was the confidence. Since winning the 1996 Colonial, Pavin finished out of the top 150 in 1997-98. He’s had eight Top 10 finishes including a win at the 2006 US Bank Championship in Milwaukee opposite the British Open Championship. Pavin has become the poster boy for bad equipment contracts.

Perhaps Els can turn around a career that had begun to slip away. He’s got the confidence that he can win again, but you have to wonder if he can maintain it in a field that has Tiger Woods in it. That remains to be seen and when you play on that high of a level, it’s the only thing that counts.


Tiger starts the year with two consecutive wins and all of a sudden pundits are talking about him finishing the year undefeated. Huh?

We’re talking TWO wins here people—not 12 or 13! Sure you can rationalize that he can win on every course he plays, but that isn’t Larry, Moe and Curly rounding out the fields. Let’s take a long, hard look at this.

He’ll play at Bay Hill. Okay, he’s won four times there. He’ll play at the WGC event at Doral where he’s two-time defending champion. If you put WGC in front of the tournament name, Tiger wins it. The Players Championship could slip into the “L” column. He’s won it once, but the relatively short target golf layout brings too many players into the game. It’s enough of an equalizer that Fred Funk can beat Tiger there. Remember Craig Perks won there and is out of golf. Tiger has won the Memorial three times. If he plays, he’ll probably win again.

He may play the Wachovia Championship. Because he has a design project in the Carolinas, it might be a possibility. That’s another possible loss. Then there’s the ATT National that is his tournament. He didn’t win last year, so he might not this year.

He played in three playoff events and won two. The one he lost to Phil Mickelson is on a course he’s won on before.

I bet you were wondering about the majors. It would not surprise me if he won the Grand Slam. He definitely wins two and probably will win three. A 10-12 win year is certainly not out of the realm of possibility. A perfect year is.

Having said that, Tiger has had a perfect year before. As a junior golfer at age 11, he ran the table winning 36 tournaments in a row. When asked about such an incredible streak, Tiger replied, “I guess I peaked at 11.”

Bartender, concoct me a LONG Island iced tea. It’s going to be a LONG season.

See you on the first tee.