Will Tiger respond to Reilly’s spanking?

July 23, 2009 | Drew Forrester

It only took a missed cut at Turnberry for a prominent media member to dig in to Tiger Woods.

I’d say ESPN’s Rick Reilly carved Tiger a new one with this piece yesterday.

I’m not judging Reilly’s opinion.  He’s out on TOUR a lot and has his finger on the pulse of what goes on — both on the course and off of it.

Off the course, as Reilly notes, Woods is a player with an unblemished resume and a plethora of “good deeds” both in his own community (Southern California) and worldwide.

On the course, though, is where Reilly sticks it to Tiger. 

Most of what’s written about Eldrick’s “tantrums” at Turnberry are accurate.  I saw it and thought to myself, “gettin’ pretty steamed there, Tiger…calm down a little.”

Then again, Woods is chasing greatness.  He’s not in need of a $94,000 paycheck from a tournament to pay off his portion of this year’s NetJets invoice.  He’s four majors shy of catching Jack Nicklaus with 18 major titles.  And by chasing greatness, that means the stakes are higher for Woods than for any other player in the field.  And when the stakes are higher, the bad shots are more costly.  And when bad shots are costly for Woods, his emotional reaction to those shots will be scrutinized more than, say, the reaction of a bad shot from John Merrick.

Tiger Woods lives in a world that no else in the world lives in.

That’s not an excuse, that’s reality.

But the reality – as Reilly noted – is that Woods operates on a bigger stage, yes, but he’s still subject to playing by the same standards of decency as Harrison Frazar or Tim Petrovic.  

And Reilly is right about that. 

Sergio Garcia’s behavior on the golf course is far worse than Tiger’s.  Then again, Sergio Garcia has won as many major titles as me.  Actually, I’ve won the Baltimore Publinx twice…Garcia hasn’t even done that.  OK, he has a Player’s Championship to his credit and I don’t, so I guess we’ll call it even.  I digress…

Back to Garcia — his behavior has been spotty at times over the years but we don’t hold him to a higher standard because he’s seemingly more bark than bite.  If he ever gets great, his behavior will be monitored more closely.  He drops more “F bombs” than Marilyn Manson in concert.

Woods, though, IS professional golf in America.  If he’s not the standard bearer for EVERYTHING, than maybe he’s not the King of Golf we think he is, right?  Of course, Tiger is King — there’s no debating that.  And because he rules the golf roost, he must, to borrow Reilly’s term, “clean up his act”. 

Had Tiger made the cut at Turnberry, this story would still be sitting on Reilly’s hard drive. 

Tiger driving clubs into the ground, lashing out at photo-snappers and dropping the occasional “F bomb” wouldn’t have been the story if he would have won the Claret Jug last Sunday in Scotland.

When he took the early flight home on Friday night, Reilly seized his chance to take a swipe at Woods.

The hammering was probably overdue.  Tiger’s been “borderline” for a while now, but when do you ever get the chance to whack him around a little?  He either wins or contends in about 90% of the events he enters.  Kind of hard to dress him down for his behavior when he’s winning 69 times in 13 years, right?

This was the right time.

I don’t know if Tiger respects Rick Reilly or not.  Historically, when folks speak out against Woods, they get the ultra-cold shoulder from Tiger and his camp.  Peter Kostis made a critical remark about Tiger’s golf swing in 2006 and Tiger doesn’t talk on-air with Kostis anymore.  Tom Pernice, Jr. once suggested that Woods needed to have his equipment tested (which, it was, and it was “clean”) and those two haven’t been paired together in the first two rounds of a tournament since then.  

This could mark the end of Rick Reilly’s access to Woods.  As “independent contractors”, PGA Tour players aren’t under any specific regulations about talking to the media.  Woods, as he showed at the end of his second round at Turnberry, has always been media-friendly on the whole, talking after wins, losses, etc.  

This, though, is essentially an attack on Tiger’s character.  I’m anxious to see how Tiger responds to Rick Reilly.

And I’m even more anxious to see if Reilly’s piece forces Tiger to look at his on-course behavior and try to tidy it up a bit.

He’s not Tommy Bolt.  Not by a longshot.  But Tiger’s outbursts need to be minimized.  

Let’s see what happens over the next five weeks or so — Tiger’s playing 3 straight events in August.  

No matter what happens, Rick Reilly’s piece was as eye-opening as Tom Watson’s performance last weekend.

Someone finally went after the game’s greatest player. 

That’ll teach him to miss a cut.