Are we expecting too much, or not enough, of Tiger?

CONTROVERSY continues to bubble, if not quite rage, following Tiger Woods’ comeback at the Augusta Masters last week.

Across the American airwaves, US media heavyweights Jim Nantz and Bob Costas have taken up polar positions on Woods’ behaviour at the Masters. The golfer indicated beforehand that he intended to rein in his temper on the fairway, but he soon started cursing his way around Augusta.

Nantz, CBS’ lead golf announcer and an arch conservative, criticised Tiger Woods for swearing during Saturday’s third-round telecasts.

“If I would have said what he said on the air, I would be fired,” said Nantz, offended by Woods saying “You suck” to himself.

Nantz continued: “Guess what? Phil Mickelson had a camera in his face all weekend. Did you ever hear him come close to approaching that? He didn’t hit every shot exactly the way he wanted. Have you ever heard Arnold Palmer or Jack Nicklaus use that kind of language?”

Nantz said he was “disappointed” given Woods’s pre-tournament pledge to restrain himself: “Tiger’s not the only guy who’s got a camera in his face all day long. But he is the only one in the field who said he wasn’t going to do that any more.”

Costas had a different take on the golfer’s attitude. The NBC broadcaster interviewed Woods after his last day’s play and said that while people might have expected “a different Tiger, more humble and warm, which would signal the beginning of a new man... what they got instead were answers that sounded like they came from the same Tiger we’ve been hearing for more than a decade.”

For the record, Woods, who confirmed yesterday he will play in the Quail Hollow Championship in Charlotte from April 29 to May 2, said: “I finished fourth. Not what I wanted. I wanted to win this tournament. As the week wore on I kept hitting the ball worse. I hit it better on Friday, but after that it was not very good.”

Costas asked the golfer if it would take time to learn to control his emotions on the course.

“I think people are making way too much of a big deal of this thing,” said Woods in response. I was not feeling good. I hit a big snipe off the first hole and I don’t know how people can think I should be happy about that. I hit a wedge from 45 yards and basically bladed it over the green.

“These are not things I normally do. So I’m not going to be smiling and not going to be happy.”

Costas focused on what Tiger might have said instead when the tournament finished. “The “New Tiger” could have talked about how much the fans’ support meant to him,” said Costas. “How the Masters is only a first step in a long road back and how he tried his best to win but came up short. He also could have said that he was happy for the Mickelson family given everything they’ve been through over the last year. If he had humbly said those things, Tiger would have been golden. Instead, he said, ‘I finished fourth. Nobody should be surprised because as much as he is trying to change himself as a person outside the ropes, he can’t change the competitor he is inside them.”

All in all, Costas was willing to give Woods the benefit of the doubt: “Let’s give Tiger some time see if he can change. If he can lose the cursing and the club throwing, but keep the passion and fire that helps make him great, then all will be well with the golf world. “I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m interviewing a different Tiger Woods next year at Augusta. Between now and then he’s got a lot of things to think about and a lot of stress to deal with inside the ropes as well as out. Change takes time. Let’s give him some.”

Not a view likely to find favour with Jim Nantz, for whom Woods’ on-course profanities remain problematic.

“How about the hundreds of people who are around that tee who hear that?” said Nantz. “How about the hundreds of letters I’ve gotten through the years from people who have been outraged at the language they’ve heard there and have written me and said, ‘Why don’t you guys ever say something about that?’”

Why indeed. Then again, as we learned recently, there were a lot of other things that could have been written about Tiger along the way.

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