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.


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