Saturday, February 6, 2010

TW2: Tom Watson on Tiger Woods

Every golfer on the planet has an opinion on Tiger’s behaviour and his infidelities. But, as the most famous sports person on the planet, there are millions of non-golfers who will have strong opinions, too. My 17 year old niece for instance, who thinks Tiger is a disgrace. As a husband and father, he clearly has a lot to answer for, but as a golfer… what do sex and infidelity have to do with golf? If he’s the best in the world then what happens in his private life is exactly that: private. Then again, being who he is, he doesn’t have a private life.

The thing is, no matter what Tiger does next, he’s going to get hammered by people. If he apologises and says he’s really, really sorry, there will be many people (from the media to professional golfers to Tiger-haters to the man on the street) who claim he’s being insincere; if he doesn’t apologise, these same people will say he’s being arrogant. He’s in a no-win situation. Obviously, he has to apologise – the world demands nothing less – but make it a simple apology and then get out there and start winning again.

Plenty of professionals have made their thoughts known on this matter, but I particularly liked what Tom Watson had to say recently, ahead of the 2010 Dubai Desert Classic. As a bridge between old-school golf and the modern professional era – as he illustrated so brilliantly for almost 72 holes at Turnberry – his is an opinion that is both considered and balanced. And worth listening to. Take note, Mr Woods.

Tom Watson wants the world number one to "clean up his act" on the course, as well as coming clean about his extra-marital affairs. To be honest, as I‘ve said already, I’m not that bothered by the latter concern, but more interestingly, and more importantly for the long term, Watson claims that there is plenty Tiger could do to improve his behaviour while competing. We have all observed his explosive frustration and it would be good to see him rein it back.

Some day I’ll tell my grand kids I played in the same tournament with Tiger Woods. We are witnessing a phenomenon the game may never, ever see again.

This is a quote made by Tom Watson in Golf World magazine in 2000. How times have changed. According to Watson in 2010, Woods does not share the same standing as many of the game's other great names because of his sometimes surly on-course demeanour. "I feel that he has not carried the same stature as the other great players that have come along like Jack (Nicklaus), Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan in the sense that there was (bad) language and club-throwing on the golf course."

"You can grant that to somebody, a young person, that has not been out there for a while, but I think he needs to clean up his act there and show the respect for the game that the people before him have shown."

Coming from Watson, that’s got to sting.

On the infidelities, Watson believes Woods should attempt to explain publically his situation before returning to golf competition.

"When he comes back he has to show some humility to the public in the sense that if I were him, it wouldn't be at a golf tournament where I come out in public first.”

This will never be the end of it. This fiasco is too big, too tasty for the media frenzy that’s consuming it. But Watson’s is one of the more reasoned and seasoned contributions to the debacle. I hope Tiger's listening.

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