Hey, Tiger, give those golf clubs a break
Mark HerrmannMark Herrmann
Herrmann has covered the Mets and Yankees since 1988,
Upon further review, Tiger Woods' dropkick Friday was up, and it was no good.
This is not meant to imply it is a crime to show anger on the golf course, as Woods did when he kicked his 9-iron during the second round of the Masters. A lot of us would have been in huge trouble, especially when we were younger, if that were the case. Where Woods fell short was that he failed to meet his own challenge.
He had made it clear when he returned to golf in early 2010 that he was going to knock it off. No more getting so demonstrative out there. Nobody asked him to promise that and his many fans still do not demand it. Woods simply volunteered, for whatever reason. Maybe it was his announced renewed interest in Buddhism. Possibly it was to signal a new era of self-control. Perhaps it was just that he decided it didn't look good, having the world watch him curse and slam his clubs.
He was asked about the incident Saturday, after an uneventful 72, and issued a semi-apologetic apology: "Certainly I'm frustrated at times and I apologize if I offended anybody by that. But I've hit some bad shots and it's certainly frustrating at times not hitting the ball where you need to hit it."
Hank Haney, his former swing coach, was in Manhattan last week to promote his controversial, bestselling, Woods-related book, "The Big Miss." Haney was painstakingly complimentary of his former client, with one exception. All that club-banging has to go, he said.
In the book, Haney writes that Woods uses blowups as a way to expel bad emotions and move on. That didn't work Friday. Woods grew more upset with every big miss and boiled over on No. 16, when he threw his 9-iron to the ground and whacked it with his foot.
Golf can make anyone feel like doing that. When Sergio Garcia, also a demonstrative sort, was asked Friday to describe the right temperament for the game, he said, "I'll tell you when I find it."
It is also true that temper is subject to the eye of the beholder, and the context. When Paul O'Neill of the champion Yankees tossed his helmet, he was called a fierce competitor. When Gregg Jefferies did the same with the underachieving Mets, he was called a baby.
On-course tantrums happen everywhere. I once saw a golf buddy fling his putter so hard that it got lodged in high branches. He had to do some serious climbing to get it. Another friend was so incensed over a missed two-footer that he wordlessly grabbed his putter and broke it over his knee. Pretty funny.
For the most part, though, this low-double-digit handicapper has come to realize that one golfer's flare-ups can ruin the vibe of a whole foursome. I promise to keep that in mind. It borders on poor sportsmanship to inflict your anger on everybody else.
Golf is a humbling game. Woods had recognized that when he vowed to be more stoic. He needs to remind himself that humility is much more attractive than anger.
A vignette from the end of Woods' Friday round: Announcer Jim Gray and a guest wanted to watch the final hole from the radio tower near the 18th green. The guest was stopped and dutifully showed his grounds pass to a security official, who still wouldn't let him in because he didn't have a media credential. There was no "Don't you know who I am?" from the guest, even though he was Julius Erving. Gray intervened and Dr. J got to watch the last putts.
By then, Woods had cooled off. He was fine in talking about the round later, too. Still, it was odd to hear him say how "patient" he had been. Try telling that to his 9-iron.
Haney predicted that Woods will stop slamming his clubs only when his son takes up golf and starts imitating dad's tantrums. Here's hoping he is right.