Don't Worry, It's OK To Hate Tiger Woods

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Don't Worry, It's OK To Hate Tiger Woods
(Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

Maybe "hate" is too strong of a word for you.  Perhaps "dislike."  Or you are "not a fan of Tiger."

Or maybe "hate" is an appropriate word and, in the words of Henry Winkler in The Waterboy, you "hate him...hate him...hate him."

Whatever you word(s) of choice, I am here to tell you that it is okay to not like Tiger.

Maybe you do not like him because he does not play in every tournament.  From an outside perception, it appears that Tiger only plays the big tournaments.  I am sure that you say to yourself, "Shoots, I wish that I could just show up to work one day a week; or every other week...just like that damn Tiger Woods!"

And it's cool.  You can hate him for that.

Or maybe you hate him because he is so dominant.  He has been at or near the top of the World Rankings and the money list since his first full year on the tour.  He wins going away and he hunts down the leaderboard and wins.  He blasts the ball out of the box and can compliment it with his short game.

And it's cool.  You can hate him for that.

Or, in addition to that, maybe you hate him because he seems so flawless.  When he needs the chip, he's got it.  When he is spending time on the beach, he digs out and sticks in near the flag.  And when it is all on the line, he hits a sweet drive that sounds like doom for the field.

Even when he is hurt, he can beat you, as he proved last year at the U.S. Open.

And it's cool.  You can hate him for that.

With his flawless play comes his robotic personality, and some people hate that.  As Jim Rome likes to note, his speeches are all the same and are essentially recorded sound bites pieced together to explain the swing feeling good and the course looking nice. 

Furthermore, he does not seem to be too fan-friendly and at times seems distant, despite his massive following.

And it's cool.  You can hate him for that.

Perhaps it is his emotions that you hate.  The fact that even though is robotic and cold, he does fist pumps and incites riotous behavior amongst the gallery.  Maybe you feel that golf is a humble sport and is no place for [missed] fist bumps and what could amount to taunting.

And it's cool.  You can hate him for that.

A small percentage of golf fans hate him because he is not white.  Some feel threatened by the fact that their sacred sport is being tainted by a "colored" who is mowing down records set by Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.  In other words, golf's sanctity is being soiled by Tiger's dominance.

And...well, that is not cool.  But some do hate him for that.

Yes, you can hate him for all of those things, or you can mix and match.  But each of these reasons to hate (or dislike or not be a fan of) Tiger have flaws in the logic.

Tiger might not play in every tournament, but how many golfers actually play every PGA tournament?  The PGA Tour holds 48 events (some are held concurrently).  While Tiger only played in six events last year (due to injury), he played in 17 in 2007, 16 in 2006, 22 in 2005 and 20 in 2004.  Over those four years, that is an average of 18.75.

Aside from Tiger and Robert Karlsson (who only played in nine PGA events last year), the average number of events played among the World's Top 10 was 17.75.  Yes, some of the Top 10 play on the European Tour, but the numbers would not be inflated too much.

Point is, Tiger plays in as many tournaments as other golfers, if only slightly fewer.  Golf, much like tennis, allows for its participants to miss tournaments.  There is no mandate to play in every tournament.  So it is within Tiger's right--or any other golfer for that matter--to pick and choose tournaments.

Certainly, Tiger does not win every tournament.  Nor does he make every clutch putt.  Nor does he always comeback to win on Sunday.  Does he make runs on Sunday?  Sure.  But he is not the only golfer to do that.

Tiger does fail.  But more times that not, he does not fail and he makes that clutch chip-in.  He works hard to be the best and it pays off on Sundays.  The likely reason some hate him for his comebacks and clutchness (is that a word?) is the comeback likely happened against a golfer that the "hater" follows.

And Tiger is definitely not robotic.  His interviews might be dull, but he recognizes his own flaws.  This is why he has tweaked his swing.  Recognizing and correcting imperfections is what makes someone great at what they do.  Perhaps because he can correct those "mistakes" in his game, detractors cannot stand him.

As for his lack of accessibility for fans, you do know who the hell he is?  No, I do not mean that because he is Tiger Woods, he can do what he wants.  Simply that because of the popularity and following that comes from being Tiger Woods, appeasing all fans would be difficult from the start.

This morning (9 April), Dan Patrick mentioned this similar notion when discussing Jack Nicklaus at an autograph session at Augusta.  The group waiting to receive autographs was, in Patrick's words, ten feet wide and 30 people deep.  There is no way the Golden Bear can sign autographs for everyone.

I imagine it is the same with Tiger Woods.  Plus, there is safety concerns with dealing with such a large following.  So can you blame Tiger?

The emotional side of Tiger—the fist pumping; the crowds going wild—should be seen as a positive for golf.  Golf is an individualistic event, meaning that it is all about the golfer; not some team.  So a celebrating Tiger Woods and an energetic gallery should be embraced.

Yet, some want to be like Christopher McDonald's character in Happy Gilmore and view Tiger's "antics" as disgracing the game.

However, all golfers show some form of emotion when winning or making a huge putt.  No one is lamenting how Lorena Ochoa (or any of the winners of the Kraft Nabisco Championship) jumping into the water on 18 is a disgrace.

Tiger has "been there and done that," so maybe he should be humble.  But there is nothing wrong with a little energy.  And the crowd reactions are beyond his control.

As for the race issue...well, I want to believe that most people who dislike Tiger do not take race into account.  I am sure those who do represent a small minority of those who hate Tiger.  So I know it is not all fans who feel that way.

But before you go thinking that race is not an issue in golf, one only has to be reminded of the reaction that the "noose" comment received last year.  And the Shoal Creek (Alabama) controversy happened in 1990, which I do not know about any of you but that definitely occurred within my lifetime.

[For those who do not remember, in 1990 Shoal Creek was set to host the PGA Championship when controversy arose surrounding the fact that the country club had zero black members.  The firestorm that followed led to some sponsors to pull advertisement from the event].

Now, I write all of this not to get you to change your mind and like Tiger Woods.  I write this as someone who is not a fan of Woods.  But I am not a fan of Tiger because I am not a fan of golf in general.  I stopped following it on 25 October 1999.

But while I am not a fan of Woods, I do recognize that he is by far the best golfer in the world.  He will most likely end up being the greatest golfer to ever play the game.  But I would not call him the greatest golfer ever because he is still active in golf.

I had an argument a couple of years ago with someone who said that Roger Clemens was the best pitcher of all time.  I disagreed because The Rocket was still active in baseball.  Of course, at the time neither of us could imagine what Clemens allegedly did to maintain his edge.

Nevertheless, I stand by the rationale that Tiger is not the greatest ever until his career is complete and we can look back on his career.  Maybe we will find out that someone was remotely controlling his golf balls in the air, or that his opponents' drinks were drugged on Sunday and that caused them to collapse down the stretch. 

But in the end, I do believe he will be judged as the greatest ever and he is certainly the best in the world right now.

Anyway, what I have noticed is that all of the above reasons are not really reasons that people dislike Tiger Woods.  Or at least, those are not the real reasons for the hatred.

It comes from two sources. 

First, his success breeds jealousy.  And maybe it is because you are a fan of Mickelson or Harrington or Kim and you do not like seeing your boy get humiliated.  But anytime someone (or some team) is successful for an extended period of time, there is bound to be jealousy. 

We like for people to be successful, but we want everyone to be successful, not just one person.  In this case, Tiger Woods.

But what can Tiger do?  Lay up?  Maybe he should just decide, "you know what, I think I will let Katayama win the Masters this year."  Wanting him to not be successful when he clearly possesses the tools to be a winner makes no sense.

Second, the oversaturation of media exposure on all things Tiger.  ESPN, the Golf Channel, and the PGA Tour absolutely love Tiger Woods.  The latter two especially, considering the viewership and revenue that he generates for those two entities.

And the extensive media coverage only accentuates his dominance, a point that I did not return to yet.  We are flooded with information on a daily basis thanks to cable/satellite television and the Internet.  It is easy for us to know everything there is to know about sports and athletes.  This site is an example of that.

Information overload highlights Tiger's dominance more so than any other athlete at any other time in history.  Imagine if Babe Ruth or Wilt Chamberlain had similar media coverage.  I am sure that they would receive a similar reaction that Tiger receives today.

But, again, what can Tiger do?  It is not his fault that the media coverage is so great.  Because his following is so large, when he is not around, golfing as an industry suffers.  Even when he was healthy, if Tiger was not in an event, the highlights were relegated to the end of ESPN's SportsCenter, if any were shown at all.

Let me use Michelle Wie as an example.  In 2006, she competed in the PGA Tour's John Deere Classic.  On Thursday and Friday episodes of SportsCenter, the event was high in the pecking order of highlights for the show.  Once she withdrew, the event was  merely an afterthought on Saturday and Sunday.

Michelle Wie is/was deemed newsworthy.  Tiger is deemed newsworthy and he sells.  That is not his fault.  Well, those who hate him will argue that it IS his fault because he is so damn successful.  If he was not successful, then he would not be the lead story.

So the saturated media coverage and the success-bred jealousy are the reasons most people hate Tiger Woods.

And it's cool.  You can hate him for that.  He is still going to play when he wants to, be dominant, pump his fist, be robotic, and wear a red shirt on Sunday.  He will still be successful and ESPN and Fox Sports and all other media outlets will be there covering it.

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