Woods lays down the law to hecklers

Tiger Woods today reminded golf spectators the world over that heckling has no place in the sport.

Tiger Woods today reminded golf spectators the world over that heckling has no place in the sport.

After an Accenture World Match Play win on Sunday was marred by a fan barracking final opponent Davis Love, Woods has moved on to the United Arab Emirates for the Dubai Desert Classic starting tomorrow.

Asked if he feared more rowdy scenes at the Ryder Cup in Detroit in September the world number one said: “It’s not just the Ryder Cup, it’s every venue.

“Things like that happen in our sport and there’s no need. It’s great when you have tournaments like Augusta (the Masters) that police themselves, where people watching take care of fans not behaving properly.

“But it’s happening more and more. We’re bringing new fans in – usually soccer, American football or basketball fans. They are used to a raucous atmosphere, but golf is not like that.”

Golf organisers faced their most serious problem with hecklers at the 1999 Ryder Cup in Boston, Colin Montgomerie being a particular target.

For the match at The Belfry two years ago captains Sam Torrance and Curtis Strange stressed the need for good sportsmanship inside and outside the ropes.

“They did a fantastic job confirming that this is a gentlemanly game. A game where we give everything we’ve got, but play the way it’s supposed to be played.

“Hopefully it will be the same at Oakland Hills, but it’s a top priority for any organiser. Forget about the Ryder Cup – every tournament.”

Woods added that the distraction of cameras and mobile phones going off also needs to be addressed.

“They are things we have had to deal with. I’m trying to hit the ball close and make putts – I don’t have control of people outside the ropes.

“Marshals are doing a great job, but you don’t want to have an unfortunate incident that costs somebody a tournament.”

Woods remembered the 2002 Sony Open in Hawaii where John Cook bogeyed the 17th after a phone went off and he lost by one.

He himself bogeyed the final hole of the American Express world championship at Mount Juliet in Ireland two years ago after a camera clicked as he playing his approach.

Woods still won, but he was trying to complete the 72 holes without a bogey.

The sale of alcohol is another controversial issue in golf and Love took it upon himself to intervene in San Diego on Sunday, demanding the heckler be removed before he played on.

“Five times this week people said ‘Do you want a beer?’ when I was walking through the ropes.

“People assume we’re out here screwing around, but we’re not. We’re playing hard.

“I don’t come into your office and screw you up. Don’t come into mine and screw me up.”

Woods is joined this week by world number three Ernie Els but the South African remembers all too clearly that he finished second to 593rd-ranked Robert-Jan Derksen last year and said: “It’s definitely not the Tiger Woods-Ernie Els show. Anybody on form can come through and win.”

Els elected not to play at La Costa last week, preferring to stay on holiday with his family.

His last outing was the Heineken Classic in Melbourne, where he won after a European Tour record-equalling 60 in the first round and with Woods recording his 53rd victory on Sunday the stage is perfectly set for a duel in the sun.

Darren Clarke, third at the weekend despite rating his game only “6 1/2 out of 10”, hopes to get involved too, while Padraig Harrington is also seeking his first Desert Classic crown.

Thomas Bjorn has his name on the trophy and a memorable win it was. He played with Woods all four days in 2001 and triumphed when Woods finished with a double bogey seven.

What will certainly be one of the strongest fields on the regular European Tour all year also includes 1996 winner Colin Montgomerie, Lee Westwood, Nick Faldo, Ian Poulter and Paul Casey – paired with Woods for the first time in his career.

Poulter, a quarter-finalist last week, is hoping a shoulder problem does not hinder his chances.

“I had a ’flu injection a couple of weeks ago and I’ve just been having a niggly pain for the last couple of weeks,” he said.

“My swing’s just a touch short than it has been, but if I take a few painkillers then it’s fine.

“I’ve got a week off next week and I’m going to have treatment every day.”

Like Casey, he then returns to America to build up to his Masters debut.

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