Tiger Woods is on the tee. Now shut the $%!# up.
If tournament officials at the Masters are doing their jobs properly, there will be signs bearing those very instructions posted throughout Augusta National this week. In boldface print.
The most dominant athlete in the world will begin his quest for his fifth green jacket Thursday, which would be his first since 2005, and he doesn’t need you and your clicking cameras, popping soda cans or ringing cell phones mucking up the works. And if you do, he’d be perfectly within his rights to … ummm … within his rights to … ahhh … how did he put it? Oh, yeah: “Break your $%!#-ing neck.”
Tiger took a lot of heat from inside and outside the golf establishment at Doral two weeks ago when he directed some words that he would likely not want his young daughter to hear at a gaggle of photographers, immediately after one of them interrupted his backswing with a flinch-inducing click of a shutter. Almost immediately, women fainted and children’s heads exploded at the sound of such an angry, profane response.
“Tiger should be ashamed of himself!” came the outcry. “There’s no place in golf for that kind of language!” shouted the analysts, fans, reporters and other assorted types who wish they were Tiger Woods. Calls for an apology were issued and general condemnation was heaped upon the man with the 13 major championships and 64 tour victories. Yet, for some unexplained reason, no scorn seemed to be directed at the photographer with the itchy trigger finger.
Why did no one stand up for Tiger? Why would no one point out the offender in the crowd? And why would anyone be angry with the “victim” in a situation with so much at stake, rather than the onlooker with no self-control?
Let’s approach it another way: If the entire gallery had fallen rightfully silent while a golfer, whether it be Woods or anyone else, prepared to take his shot, and then, in the middle of the stillness and in the middle of his backswing, one lout decided to shout, “HEY!” what do you think would have happened? The offender would likely be beaten by the mob circling the tee box and lining the fairway as he was escorted off the course by police and emergency medical technicians.
I will admit that it wasn’t that many years ago that I had no tolerance for what I believed to be whiny golfers who were upset at a little bit of noise while they played. If they want to be counted as real athletes playing a real sport, I reasoned, then they should have no problem enduring the same shouting, screaming and chanting that Derek Jeter has to face in the ninth inning of a 2-2 game or that Peyton Manning deals with on third-and-15 in the fourth quarter at Foxboro.
But as the years passed, and as I spent more and more of my time on the golf course learning a little more about the game each season on dinky local tracks with nothing more at stake than bragging rights among beer buddies, I began to understand. There is just something about golf that requires gentlemento be gentlemen on the course, allowing competitors to lock in and focus as best they can, without intentional annoyances that only serve to distract them from the difficult task at hand. And those rules of gentlemanly conduct must apply to galleries, too.
So if you’ve got designs on watching Tiger pursue history at Augusta this weekend, remember the rule — even if they forget to post the signs: Tiger is on the tee. Now shut the $%!# up.