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Tiger and the F-Bomb

“The next time a photographer shoots a f***ing picture, I’m going to break his f***ing neck.”-Tiger Woods to a group of photographers at Doral on Saturday.

I must admit to being a touch perplexed by the interest in Tiger Woods’ foul mouth and his display of anger on Saturday during the third round of the CA Championship. It isn’t like he hasn’t done it before. I remember Woods clearly uttering “motherf***er,” while snapping a ball into the ocean at the 18th at Pebble Beach during the U.S. Open, for example.

Maybe it is the fact that he’s playing so well now that the expletive seemed a bit out of place. After all, if hardly a single golfer in the world can beat Woods, those that have trained all their lives to be the best, it is hard to imagine Tiger being derailed by a photog with a digital SLR. But apparently that was the case, at least according to Tiger himself, who had to actually explain what happened to ESPN:

Each time its happened, well three out of four times, I made bogey, Woods said. At the time I needed to make birdie, I flinched on it. (The photographer) got me in transition on my downswing. ¦ It was the heat of the moment. That one shot took the momentum that I had built on No. 8.

That was good enough for ESPN, which essentially excuses Woods on its golf blog.

OK, let’s start at the beginning. Yes, he used profanity — the “f” word, twice, if you must know — and yes, the national television cameras were squarely on him at the time. But that’s not his concern. Woods has used such language in the past and will do so again in the future, for reasons from being angry with himself for hitting a poor shot to being angry with a photographer for taking a photo too soon. It’s pretty apparent he doesn’t care about the public reaction, because he continues to do it. For a guy who is almost always Exhibit A for all public relations directors out there, it’s one thing — maybe the one thing — that makes him look bad.

Why is ESPN willing to excuse Woods’ antics? Because he tries so hard.

Then again, it also shows how much Woods cares about every shot, how concerned he is with the result and how disappointed he becomes when factors other than his own swing intervene in the final product. Think of in other terms. If the click bothered Woods and he said nothing, what’s to stop a renegade photographer from trying it again? If the click bothered him and he politely asked the photographers to refrain from taking such shots too early, would it be as effective in further prevention? Admit it: For a guy who so often issues the most thoughtful, measured response to any question, it’s nice to see the human side come through once in a while.

That didn’t sit well with Jason Kelly of the South Bend Trib:

Among his many remarkable characteristics, unmatched mental strength makes him such a fearsome competitor. He lost it in the blink of a cameras eye and, worse, used the situation as an excuse long after the heat of the moment cooled.

I actually find this whole matter a bit of a tempest in a teapot, or maybe a loose Pinnacle in JD’s bag. The only reason anyone finds this outburst bothersome is that Woods was caught on camera, and, as G4G readers clearly point out, a lot was made about Woods’ apparent ability to focus on the matter at hand and tune out his surroundings. Harder than we were led to believe, apparently.

Sometimes not swearing on the golf course is among the hardest things to do. Ask any weekend hack and he’ll tell you that every round is probably punctuated by a couple of breathy “f**ks,” when he lays sod over the ball. I’m as guilty of it as anyone. I’m used to chewing myself out for poor shots with the expression “F**k me, Robert.” I was once asked if that expression changed on a good shot. I told my partner it sure did — as if imaging some Hollywood starlet saying, “F**k me, Robert.” Truthfully one of the most disciplined rounds I ever had to play was in a driving rain at Royal Troon where I was paired with a Presbyterian minister and his son-in-law who told me on the first tee that the preacher hated cursing. Oh. I did my best, but with the wind hammering me in the face, I blocked one into the fescue four holes in and cursed a blue streak. The minister didn’t seem too bothered — though I’m sure he felt I was going to hell. At that moment, with the rain sloshing in my shoes, I was pretty sure I was already there.

Enough about me. Back to Tiger. G4G reader Tighthead thought the latest incident just exploded another myth about Woods:

Remember how Earl taught Tiger to block everything out by throwing quarters at him while he hit balls?

I guess that was just more of Earls b.s.

And maybe, in some ways, this latest incident just proves something that doesn’t always seem apparent — that Tiger is human. And with that in mind, by showing a crack in his remarkable focus, by showing he isn’t an icey Ben Hogan, it makes Woods all the more incredible.

When he wins the Masters next week, everyone will forget about this.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

3 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Hey Rob,

    I’ll leave it up to you to tell everyone how my swishing rain pants and orange jacket made you feel in Ireland.

    Sorry bud. Steve

  • Hey Robert,
    I disagree with you on this one.

    Its not the swearing that bothers me its the threat to break the photogs neck. I may swear when I golf, but I don’t threaten to injure anyone.

    Also, he isn’t going to win the masters. 🙂

    Take care

  • Frank,

    My thoughts exactly. I can drop an F-Bomb with the best but threatening specific physical violence is not cool. Perhaps if he had said he was going to lynch him………

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