I Just Want Tiger Woods to Be Who He Is

Believe it or not, this was originally meant to be a comment.

I began writing it in response to a piece by Stephanie Wei who frequently delivers thought-provoking posts at her blog Wei Under Par.

Yesterday she wrote about the "Tiger Tantrum Debate" that recently came out of the Open Championship, and was was heighten by Wednesday's Rick Reily ESPN opinion piece in which the outspoken scribe suggested that Tiger should clean up his act.

A few days earlier Shane Bacon had expressed a similar view on his excellent Dogs That Chase Cars, and I'd received numerous emails on the subject. I noticed most came down clearly on the side of Mssrs. Reily and Bacon. I hesitated to weigh in because I knew my opinion wouldn't be popular, and although "political correctness" is definitely not something I'm known for, sometimes - I'll admit it - I just don't feel like being unpopular. I did that in Middle School.

But here's the thing; I found the whole "Tiger Tantrum Debate" disconcerting, because, quite frankly, I didn't find Tiger Woods' behavior objectionable at all.

For me it was ... like...normal, considering the circumstances. He was showing emotion... wearing it on his sleeve. The way he did it was visceral... and, yes, quite normal. Maybe I missed something? Why wasn't I offended?

To make matters worse, it was deja vu all over again because just a week earlier Cristie Kerr's behavior in the final round of the US Women's Open, had seemed to me to be totally natural and in proportion with the situation, yet had been criticized, at times vitriolically, in the same way. That too had left me wondering.

I suppose if I was counting on either of these sports stars to be a role model for my children I might be upset with their behavior too, but you see, I'm of the opinion that parents should be the role models for their children, and should be totally vested in that demanding, often less-than-gratifying job. The fact that so many parents insist that athletes or actors or singers be role models, indicates to me that they themselves don't particularly want to take on this difficult part of parenting, and would rather leave the heavy lifting to the Tigers and Cristies, or the Mileys and Justins. The next thing you know there'll be people chastising Amy Weinhouse and Snoop Dog for not living up to their role model responsibilities. Like they owe us better behavior.

The paradoxical thing is; I'd venture to guess that many of the very same individuals criticizing Tiger Woods and Cristie Kerr are also the ones who criticize some of the LPGA's Korean players because.... they don't show enough emotion. It's like... Fist Pump: yes, you better do that. Bag Kick: no you better not do that. High Five: yes, you better do that. Club Toss: no you better not do that. Happy Emotions: Show them or expect to be criticizes Disappointed Emotions: Don't show them or expect to be criticized. "Golfers, you must control your emotions...but don't control them too well, OK?"

Come on people. Do you really want to mold all golfers into one uniform mass of well-behaved, smiling, fist-pumping boringness? I don't. And I don't think it's a particularly good plan for professional golf going forward either. Any more than the the velvety, whispered announcing and oft-parodied golf clap. I'm not saying golf should become like professional wrestling - though some will undoubtedly accuse me of that - but if we want it to grow and thrive into the future, it needs to chill a bit, and I happen to think it's perfectly capable of doing so without sacrificing its unique historical qualities of honesty and integrity.

I love the tradition of golf as the ultimate gentleman's game and the fact that wherever it's played it, no matter the modesty of the course, or the inexperience of the players, it brings with it an old world aura of mannerly self-control and respect. It may not be always be visible and we may not practice it consistently, but it's indelibly linked to the game we play, and always will be.

I was at Winged Foot a couple of days ago and all of this was brought to mind. There were no tournaments taking place, just members and their guests enjoying the pristine surroundings, and the old world aura was completely palpable. It was quite and cloistered and heartbreakingly beautiful, and though I did spy a couple of young men wearing cargo shorts, in that exclusive environment, I could hardly imagine a club being thrown or a bag being kicked. That venerable club with it's Gothic clubhouse and lush lawns is a protected place where exclusivity preserves a certain code of behavior. But the outside those iron gates, where the rest of the world resides, our culture is constantly changing and it's only natural that golf, and professional golfers, are changing with it.

OK. now that I've gone this far, I'm going to take it a step further and quote one of the most maligned (and most popular) golfers in the world, Sergio Garcia. I should probably know better but apparently I don't.

Prior to the start of the US Open at Bethpage earlier this summer, the tempestuous Spanish golfer put it this way, “I’ve always said it, I am the way I am, but I think that’s what people love about me, because what you see is what you get, unfortunately, both in a good way and a bad way". He went on to suggest that, though one can mature, and learn from things they've done in the past, ultimately, they're going to be who they are.

I, for one, want the golfers I like to be who they are...not what "the public wants them to be". If I don't like a particular golfer's behavior, I'll just not be his or her fan. I have that choice. So do you. And to those who say Tiger owes it to his sponsors to behave with a certain decorum? Hello? First of all that's between Tiger and his sponsors, and secondly the sponsors can simply not renew his contract if they feel he's not representing the spirit of their brand.

I could go on and on about this because it touches upon a number of social issues I feel strongly about, like individuality and personal responsibility and freedom of expression, not to mention the whole debate on the evolution of the game of golf. But this is far too long as it is and I'm already starting to get that unpopular feeling. Ouch.


  1. Totally awesome response. I don't particularly like to see Tiger, or any other player, throw clubs and F-bombs, but I accept it as evidence of their humanity. Thanks for taking the conventional wisdom head on.

  2. I think, anyone who wants to get ticked of at a pro showing negative emotion on a golf course, doesnt get what it is like to hit good shots on a regular basis and then hit a bad one. I do however feel there is a fine line between, what is an acceptable outburst, and what crosses the line.

  3. I agree wholeheartedly with your perception of Tiger. I believe one of the reasons Tiger is the greatest in the world is because he is in the "Now" more often than anyone else. We all live with our minds propensity to go to the past and the future. Emotion (and the thoughts associated with the emotion) occur in the moment. Tiger expresses emotion fearlessly. Just as quickly as the emotion erupts, he has the ability (seemingly in a few steps down the fairway) to forget the past and recognize his ball is in the "perfect" place, right where he hit it. The emotion is not the issue. The important understanding is how long you hold the thought and the emotion.

  4. I don't expect Tiger or anyone else to never show emotion, and goodness knows I know what it's like to be frustrated when I'm playing poorly.

    But in more than one interview Tiger himself recalled getting a stern lesson from his Dad when, as a youngster, Tiger got mad and threw a club. When Earle was alive, I don't remember Tiger ever getting as petulant as frequently as he does now.

  5. Great read, I do as well. These players' tantrums/emotions are not necessarily reflections of their human character to me, but rather that they are in fact human. No doubt with immense passions and under unfathomable pressures that likes of me will never know. I don't expect them to go out and be well behaved role models that week. They are out to win.

    That said, do I condone it? No, I don't want to be playing with a joe/jane this weekend who throws tantrums or their clubs - then again, are not on the world stage under severe media scrutiny.

  6. I was once married to a Tour pro who was notorious for his spectacular displays of emotion and temper. Some of those remain legendary with people who witnessed them-- for better or worse. Some people observed it and quickly took a dislike to him. Others laughed and became even bigger fans -- because he was so human... relate-able to the average player who knew well the insanity one could feel in hitting a bad shot -- or just being so angry with yourself for not being BETTER.

    As his wife, it was always painful to watch. Embarrassing, yes. But I also knew the torture that he was going through. Sometimes it had to do with worries about money and making the cut. Sometimes it was knowing he was falling back from ending as the leader. And he had no one to blame but himself.

    That's not an excuse to behave like a two year old having a tantrum. But everyone has a different emotional makeup, and there will always be players who wear their emotions on their sleeves, and some who hide it under a cool steel image.

    T. had a brilliant talent that kept people following -- and he was funny and charismatic on the course most of the time. So if you followed, you got your money's worth.

    The world will not end if a player -- even Tiger -- throws a club sometime (I've seen clubs thrown that could have hurt the caddy)(not Tiger) or curses. If you have your little one with you, it's up to you as a parent to point out that even the best person in the world can make a mistake sometimes.

    And one thing I have to say in my ex-husband's defense -- at the end of the round, he ALWAYS was kind and generous with his time and attention to anyone, especially little fans, in signing and talking. Many of the non-emotional players walked by -- maybe too busy stuffing that emotion to acknowledge anyone.

  7. Woods chose to be a role model when he picked his off course efforts. i.e. Learning Centers, (very noble), and dollars from EA Sports, where millions of young'uns support his bank balance.

    The F-Bomb laced tirades could be jettisoned without loss of competitiveness or emotion. (See Nicklaus). The civility is part of what separates golf from other sports. What about respecting his playing partners who may not be exactly thrilled with the outbursts? Are they going to say anything to the meal ticket? How many rounds would you suffer through with a petulant, spoiled, and obviously immature playing partner GG?

    Believe it or not, I've always been a Woods' supporter, but the Open display was a real turn off.

  8. I agree! I LIKE to see Tiger's human side. And your so right about parents behaving poorly themeselves and not taking the time to communicate with their own children but expecting stars and athletes to be good role models.

    Why am I almost certain that Tiger Woods own children will be respectful, polite and perfect?

  9. Tiger wasn't the only club throwing pro at The Open, Casey bent one of his out of shear frustration. I agree that it's good to see players show emotion.
    ''mold all golfers into one uniform'' this is my gripe with Tiger he sold out, he's just a billboard flogging a uniform.

  10. Totally agree Patricia. Tiger definitely has a fire in his belly. It is this fire that makes Tiger a champion and an occasional "thrower of clubs."

    I wrote about it when another journalist attacked him. Just doesn't make sense to me. Good post. BTW unpopular is much cooler this days. ;o)

  11. I like to see Tiger's fire- as long as he doesn't do it over and over again many times in a round. He should try to eliminate his F bombs. I use it as much as anybody. I just try to watch who I use it in front of.

    Not that Tiger can probably go out "as a family" the way the rest of us can, but if and when he does, I'm sure he wouldn't want someone saying that in front of his kids.

    As far as the legends go, it's funny when I hear people wanting Tiger to be more genteel like, say, Arnold Palmer. I saw a good amount of Arnie in person playing when he was in his 20's and 30's. You could say a lot about him in those days- genteel was not one of those things.

    The women seem to be showing more and more fire. I like seeing that from them. My favorite golfer on the planet, Morgan Pressel, plays with as much passion as anyone. I don't think you will hear an F bomb from her though.

  12. I agree with your observations about parent's being role models GG but, 1. you don't have kids of your own, and 2. no matter what 'role model status' one's parents are, kids still look to the external heroes and heroines upon whom to base themselves in future years. Media crazed circus society has created that. The huge media and celebrity status wagon-train, coupled with vasts, and in my opinion extortionate, amounts of money that are involved will always automatically draw the kids to regard these players as 'superheros' that parents can never expect to emulate - remember, kids are impressionable until they grow up (sadly some never grow up).

    Tiger Woods should take a leaf out of the book of Bjorn Borg the Swedish tennis star. Borg as a 16 year old would throw and break his racquets in frustration, until the authorities banned him from entering tournaments due to poor behaviour. Borg learnt the hard way. But learn he did, and he went on to become one of the greatest tennis players of all time with a reputation and a knickname of 'Ice Cool' Borg, because he was so cool even when frustrated....he was and still is a 'true' role model.

    No one person is bigger than golf but I think the media forget's all about bottom line greed. For some unknown reason we were forced to watch Woods play crap golf during the opening two rounds whilst Camilo Villegas and others got little or no coverage despite being in joint 3rd during the first round.

    I have now followed golf for 44 years and never have I seen Palmer, Nicklaus nor Player throw a club in frustration. It's no good fining players like Woods for 'human outbursts' - the fines would be too paultry to the likes of these guys. Players should be banned or have 2 shots put on their score, per hole that the outburst took place...they do similar in tennis. There is no necessity for it and there is no room for it in sport nor life. Soon these guys will realise that they have chosen to be on a world stage and that many impressionable kids look up to them.

  13. So you're saying that it is perfectly acceptable for people to show a juvenile lack of control over their emotions ? Unchecked anger is good ?

    So we should just empty the jails of guys who beat up their girlfriends and other people because they were just "expressing themselves" ?

    Ask yourself this - if, when you were dating hubby, he was in the habit of throwing things and swearing every time he messed something up, would you have continued to date him ?

    What do you say to kids who immitate Tiger's behavior because Tiger does it and gets away with it ? (yes - the obvious answer is that the parents are supposed to take care of those problems, but how often does that actually happen ?)

  14. I totally agree with what Average Golfer said. Sorry, Golf Girl.

  15. We are human. It is your choice how you behave on the course, within the rules, it is your choice how you react to other players behaviours. Role models are human, no one is perfect.

  16. GG....don't criticize parents who expect role models to act accordingly. We do our job at home and yes we do expect those role models to do theirs too. If you had children of your own you might have thought differently

  17. Patricia, I love your posts because you throw your opinion out there even when you know it may not be popular. I really enjoyed this post a lot. Mostly because I agree with it. :) But also because it is so eloquently written.

    People are not perfect. Individuals deal with anger, disappointment, and expectations differently. Not everyone is a Saint. Not me. Not even Tiger.

  18. Thanks for all the awesome responses! I think I'll do one more post on this subject because I find it quite fascinating.

  19. I get around late to reading posts sometimes, and I just read this. Good for you, GolfGirl. I, like you, see no issues with Tiger's behavior. Golf is a damn frustrating game - we toss plenty o' 'F' bombs, take the Lord's name in vain and just about everything else out there when we play - and we dont have nearly the amount on the line that Tiger does. I'd be pissed if I hadn't won a major this year and my knee was bothering me and I was struggling with my swing changes - he's the world's best golfer. The expectations on that guy every single time he puts a tee in the ground...damn. That being said, the stuff that is bad for the kids is just that, him telling a reporter he's going to kick their ass isn't good fodder for tv or for our nation's youth...Can we be blamed simply for saying...ehh? Could be worse...NFL...NBA...MLB..enough said.

  20. Showing emotion is one thing. Throwing clubs and cussing is another - thats letting emotion control you. It should be like football. If you throw your helmet your penalized yardage, or maybe even better, if you throw the club you leave it where it is and play the rest of the round without it. It takes more self control to harness those emotions and not act out on them.


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