Australia wisely invested $3M to lure Tiger Woods to the JBWere Masters, and they were treated to nothing less than Tiger's best effort in a two-shot victory.
Fortunately for Tiger and those same Australians, nobody was treated for an injury caused by a flying Nike driver, which only moments earlier had let the world's best golfer down with a poor tee shot on the thirteenth hole Saturday.
I've excused Tiger's verbal outbursts in the past. Ben wrote an article about them and largely supported Tiger as well. I continue not to care about Tiger's verbal outbursts, and will point out that he seems to have improved both in volume and content in recent years.
But tossing a club into a crowd of people? Well, now, that's well across the line.
So far as I know, Tiger's thrown a club only a few times like this - an overhanded hammer-throw - only once before. That happened at TPC Boston on a secluded tee well away from spectators.
He's thrown or slammed - sometimes quite violently - clubs into the ground, his golf bag, bunkers, and even a tee or plastic bottle - on several occasions. He's cursed and sworn, occasionally quite loudly, in the past as well.
These acts don't bother me so much. I prefer to see golfers who show a bit of emotion, and I think this aspect of Tiger is the yin to his fist-pumping yang. Take away one part and you'd be left with an unbalanced Tiger.
But there can be no offsetting yang large enough to absolve a yin which puts spectators at risk of injury (however small).
All that said, I'm willing to give Tiger Woods a pass on this incident. And before everyone jumps on me and accuses me of being a Tiger Woods apologist, read on.
Tiger gets a pass on this occurrence because people make mistakes. However, a smart person who cares about the traditions of the game as well as the respect and safety of the fans will learn from his mistake, and Tiger Woods is a smart guy. Additionally, there are ten ways in which this type of behavior can hurt him and none in which it can help, so even if Tiger's a prima donna jerk who doesn't really care if someone's eyeball gets in the way of his hurtling titanium, he's smart enough to realize that this behavior can't help him win golf tournaments, it can't help him fund the Tiger Woods Learning Center or his children's great-great grandchildren's lives, or anything else.
Everyone makes mistakes. People worth respecting learn from their mistakes and don't make them again. While the lesser offense of slamming a golf club down away from spectators may or may not cross your own personal line of "showing respect" or "acting like an adult," you'd be hard pressed to find a sane person whose line sits beyond "tossed clubs entering the gallery." That's just to say that while you'll find disagreement that the occasional "goddammit Tiger" is a mistake (or not), nobody will disagree that this most recent act is an egregious one.
I'm reminded of the time Bobby Jones threw a golf club (as detailed in the Mark Frost biography The Grand Slam):
But just prior to that, dissatisfied with his approach shot, Bobby had thrown his club back toward his bag, lying on the ground near the gallery. The club glanced off the bag, bounced up, and hit a female spectator in the lower leg… Walker [USGA President] warned: "You will never play in a USGA event again unless you learn to control your temper."
Tiger, you've crossed the line, both metaphorically and physically (the rope that's supposed to separate a player - and his equipment - from the gallery). Like Bobby Jones before him, Tiger is human. He deserves most of what people are saying, but he deserves a chance - like Bobby Jones - to realize the error of his ways and change his behavior.
I hope never to see a golfer behave like this again.
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