In case you haven’t heard, Rick Reilly recently criticized Tiger Woods for his temper tantrums in an article entitled “Woods needs to clean up his act.”
To sum it up, Reilly basically states that Woods’ frequent curses and club slams after bad shots or poor putts are an insult to the sport and past golfers as well as his current competitors, while also serving as a bad example for kids.
I tend to disagree with the majority of Reilly’s opinions due to the fact that they are usually anti-athlete—I find that the majority of his articles portray athletes as spoiled brats who make too much money, and he’s happy to point out that Woods makes $100 million a year in endorsements in this article, which serves little purpose.
But regardless of how you feel about him, you have to respect Reilly as a powerful name in the sports world.
However, like in most cases, I disagree with Reilly feeling as if Tiger needs to be a poster boy of good sportsmanship in golf, as the sport already has enough of those characters.
How many times do you see Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, and other guys on the PGA Tour so much as merely shake their heads or shrug their shoulders after hitting a ball into the tree line or narrowly missing a birdie putt, or, as a worst case scenario, throw their sand wedge towards their bag after a tough time in the bunker?
And after they nail a shot right next to the pin from 200 yards out or sink an eagle putt, you usually just see a short flash of emotion with a weak fist pump and a high-five from their caddie.
In any golf tournament, you will see players hit amazing shots, regardless of whether Tiger is in it or not.
But aside from the reason that he’s the best golfer in the history of mankind, the reason why we like to watch Woods play so much is because of the fact that he is so willing to publicly display his emotions like a stripper displays her assets at the Body Shop in Hollywood.
He’ll pump his fists in exhilaration after making a crucial putt and curse all over Amen corner when his ball goes astray.
And golf fans like that.
After all, Sergio Garcia earned an endorsement deal from Heineken not because of his golfing ability (he hasn’t lived up to his potential one bit), but because of one sprint and scissor-kick out of the trees in the PGA Championship 10 years ago.
And Boo Weekly captured the attention of golf fans everywhere by pretending to ride his driver like a pony a la Happy Gilmore at last year’s Ryder Cup.
And fans loved to discuss Rory Sabbatini walking away from the 17th green early in 2005 because Ben Crane was playing too slow for his liking, and a golfer throwing his clubs into a lake or smashing his driver into the tee box always warrants a highlight on SportsCenter, no matter what the tournament.
Golf needs guys who are emotional in order to draw more fans, as people want to see Chad Ochocinco celebrate in a hilarious manner after a touchdown, Terrell Owens explode like a North Korean missile at his quarterback, and Prince Fielder get into a shoving match with Manny Parra, not a boring pro golfer like Vijay Singh simply wave to fans after winning a golf tournament.
For that reason, PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem and Nike executives (both of whom Reilly says should tell Tiger to tighten up his act), as well as ESPN, CBS, and all the other channels that broadcast the PGA Tour, should hope and pray that Tiger doesn’t all-of-a-sudden behave like a U.S. diplomat.
This would make him essentially just like every other golfer (just 10 times better than them) if he does, and thus golf will appear as being even more boring to casual fans.
And when Reilly says that Tiger serves as a bad role model for youngsters with his hot temper, I say to him that I would much rather have a kid show anger in the pursuit of perfection than be complacent with failure.
Golf is not a sport like basketball or football where taunting, kicking a pile-on or throwing the ball down in disgust can result in penalties.
The only actions that are required of a golfer in a tournament are that you are still and quiet when your opponent is hitting or putting, mark your ball on the green when it is in your opponent’s way and shake your opponents’ hand after the match, and Tiger does all of these things respectably, regardless of whether he is 10 strokes ahead of the field or in danger of missing the cut.
Golf is an individual sport, pure and simple.
You’re not showing up your teammates when you throw a club after hitting a ball in the water hazard, you are just showing disgust with yourself.
If a high school or college golf coach or league wants to set penalties for players who throw their clubs or swear, then that’s fine, but if a player does it while participating as an individual in a tournament, it causes no harm.
And I’d much rather have a kid pound a club into the tee box after a slice than lead into a receiver with his helmet or throw a guard down who’s trying to make a lay-up because he’s upset.
These actions can hurt someone, but not the toss of a club (as long as you look at where you’re throwing it) or an F-bomb (depending on your religious preferences).
Tiger is not hurting anybody by throwing his club or spewing foul language, just keeping us enamored with his perfectionism and emotion.
We like emotion as sports fans, and we shouldn’t want to see a player who is the best at it suddenly leave it behind like a ball in the water hazard just to serve as a better role model for kids.
It makes the sport all the more worthwhile to watch when Tiger’s playing, and makes up for its lack of action in comparison to the NFL and NBA.