Brandel Chamblee makes a living out of forming controversial, often polarizing opinions to drive discussion and discourse in the golf world. Let’s get one thing straight, I generally have a lot of respect for Brandel because he knows exactly what he’s doing and at least he has a point of view that results in lively debate, like in this case, but this piece threw me off a bit.
In a Golf.com column where Brandel hands out end-of-the-season grades to the top players in the world, the Golf Channel broadcaster and frequent critic of Tiger Woods gave the world no. 1 golfer an “F.” That’s not Chamblee’s crime in this case — after all, he’s entitled to his own opinion — rather he goes on and implies that Woods is a cheater:
Tiger Woods: When I was in the fourth grade, I cheated on a math test and when I got the paper back it had “100” written at the top and just below the grade, was this quote, “Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive!” It was an oft-quoted line from the epic poem “Marmion” by Sir Walter Scott, and my teacher’s message was clear. Written once more beneath that quote was my grade of “100”, but this time with a line drawn through it and beneath that an F. I never did ask my teacher how she knew I cheated and I certainly didn’t protest the grade. I knew I had done the wrong thing and my teacher the right, but I never forgot the way I felt when I read that quote.
“I remember when we only talked about Tiger’s golf. I miss those days. He won five times and contended in majors and won the Vardon Trophy and … how shall we say this … was a little cavalier with the rules.*
(FYI: “Cavalier” means “showing lack of proper concern, offhand,” which at times, is correct under the right context.)
What’s the problem? He didn’t call him a “cheater,” as he reminds us of Tiger’s strange year. Well, here’s where Brandel crosses the line — actually, that entire first paragraph offends me — but it’s the asterisk that denotes all the controversial rules incidents Woods was involved with this past season:
*Tiger’s rule controversies in 2013 included taking an illegal free drop at the Abu Dhabi Championship, avoiding disqualification at the Masters despite signing an incorrect scorecard following an illegal drop, giving himself a favorable drop after hitting into a water hazard at the Players Championship, and a two-stroke penalty for causing his ball to move while removing a twig resting against it at the BMW Championship.
I’m not arguing that Woods didn’t have some sketchy run-ins with the rules in 2013, but the way it’s worded above makes them completely out of context.
Firstly, he did take an illegal free drop at the Abu Dhabi Championship, but that was an innocent mistake. Tiger’s ball was embedded in what appeared to be a vegetated area, which is free relief on the PGA Tour. He conferred with playing partner Martin Kaymer about the drop and Kaymer agreed that Woods should get relief. Then, later in the round, rules officials approached Woods because they thought it was actually a sandy area (under the vines), in which case Woods shouldn’t have received the drop. Afterwards, Tiger watched footage of the drop in the TV truck with officials and said he believed it was sand and took the two-shot penalty without argument. The only thing Tiger is guilty of in this case was being careless and not calling over a rules official to triple-check.
Second of all, he avoided DQ at the Masters after taking an illegal drop, but a fellow rules official and former player turned out to be the mysterious caller who notified Augusta National officials and the Masters competitions chairman reviewed the drop and deemed it to be legal, which is why Woods was not disqualified and given the two-shot penalty instead. Basically, Woods called attention to his illegal drop in a television interview following his round. Whoops. He had a few brain farts in that second round.
Next, Tiger’s drop on no. 14 in the final round of The Players Championship, which he ended up winning for the second time in his career, was rather questionable, especially when a TV graphic compared the spot where Tiger dropped to the other players’ who had pulled it in the same hazard at TPC Sawgrass’s Stadium Course.
The rule is you’re supposed to drop the ball where the ball last crossed the hazard, which is hard to determine exactly. Woods’ drop was questioned because it was much further ahead of where other people watching thought it last crossed the hazard line, but his playing partner Casey Wittenberg vouched for Tiger and told him he thought it crossed at the point where Woods dropped. (Later Wittenberg was asked about it and he was so adamant that it was correct that he seemed offended as if his integrity were being questioned, as well.) I never competed in front of thousands of people and a bunch of TV cameras, but usually in my competitive experience, that was good enough for me or anyone else in the field.
Finally, Tiger thought his ball oscillated at the BMW Championship and did not move (and he was quite bullish with that stance). However, when you watch the replay — and I didn’t even need the slo-mo, super-HD version to see that the ball moved positions — of the shot in question, it did indeed move the slightest bit, not merely oscillate. Does that cause people to question his integrity? Sure. But good chance he really just thought it oscillated and maintained that position because he was offended people questioned his integrity.
Woods made a lot of hare-brained mistakes in 2013 and didn’t win any majors, but he still won five regular events, including The PGA Tour’s flagship event and two World Golf Championships. To call his encounters with the rules “curious” is one thing, but to strongly imply that Tiger is a full-on “cheater” on the golf course, or rather “cavalier” with the rules is another.
I have a lot of respect for Brandel and his schtick is to give a strong opinion that isn’t always the most popular — unlike a fair number of his colleagues that are yes-men to everyone and everything — but this time the analyst may have gone a little too far.
Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg thinks so and he’s considering taking legal action, according to Bob Harig’s ESPN.com report:
“There’s nothing you can call a golfer worse than a cheater,” Steinberg said. “This is the most deplorable thing I have seen. I’m not one for hyperbole, but this is absolutely disgusting. Calling him a cheater? I’ll be shocked, stunned if something is not done about this. Something has to be done.
“Three are certainly things that just don’t go without response. It’s atrocious. I’m not sure if there isn’t legal action to be taken. I have to give some thought to legal action.”
I don’t blame Steiny, but Team Tiger just gave the story more legs and perhaps he’s playing right into Chamblee’s hands because he and just about anyone knows that a lawsuit would never hold up.
“This is, ‘Hey, look at me,’ in its lowest form,” Steinberg said in his statement. “Brandel Chamblee’s comments are shameful, baseless and completely out of line. In his rulings, Tiger voiced his position, accepted his penalty and moved on. There was no intention to deceive anyone. Chamblee’s uninformed and malicious opinions, passed on as facts, and his desperate attempt to garner attention, is deplorable.”
There needed to be more context with the asterisk and the “Hey look at me,” part goes without saying. I mean, I like Brandel, but he really graded himself? C’mon, man, really? I might have more of a problem with that display of hubris than his accusations against Tiger!
“It’s slanderous, it’s defamation,” said one prominent caddie familiar with all the parties involved (with exception of Chamblee because he says Brandel is the one TV guy who doesn’t come to the range to ask the caddies and players questions). “It’s one thing to say you dislike his swing or don’t think he’s a clutch putter anymore, but it’s on a much different — and much lower — level to label him a cheat.
“It’s pathetic that Chamblee has to resort to this to get anyone to pay attention. I hope Steiny sues Chamblee on Tiger’s behalf.”
This caddie has exchanged texts with Tiger’s camp and as you can tell by Steiny’s comments, he confirms they are beyond unhappy. Again, like I said, this might be exactly the reaction Brandel and his editors were striving for — hey, we’re all talking about it, right?
(Photo via Golf.com)