Luke Donald is many things– a world-class golfer, a watercolour-bothering amateur artist, a husband, a father– but an idiot is not one of them; nor, it must be said, has he somehow remained ignorant of the decade-long influence and insistent brilliance of one Tiger Woods.
While the above would be considered by the vast majority of fans to be entirely self-evident, it didn’t stop a vocal, CAPS LOCK-inclined minority from venting their frustration in the direction of the current World Number One on learning that he considered Rory McIlroy a superior natural talent to the fourteen-time major champion.
A harmlessly abstract, press conference rumination on the differences between the greatest golfer of all-time and the energetic tyro who would be his long-term successor at the summit of the world rankings, Donald’s remarks were both insightful and tempered by a deep respect for the players in question.
Filtered through the hyterical echo chamber of contemporary social media, however, they took on an altogether different cast. Suddenly, Tiger Woods was perceived to have been slighted and Donald had been irrevocably branded bitter, delusional and a host of other, less printable adjectives and nouns.
Appearing on Twitter hours later, Donald’s attempts at clarification were met with outright dismissal, no end of sanctimony and, in a handful of the most extreme cases, glee.
Here, after all, was evidence of a “back-track”; that it was less a reversal of the Englishman’s original position than the hyper-sensitive parsing of it was, judging by today’s headlines, deemed to be of only marginal significance.
It appears that the man most likely to be named the PGA Tour’s player of the year, much like Paul Casey before him, is in danger of falling victim to a highly tendentious media narrative over which he has little control.
That he should be so egregiously punished for a moment of candour is, particularly when set alongside golf’s need to develop the public profiles of those who will help define the sport over the coming decade, deeply dispiriting.