Much ado about nothing

March, 27, 2008
Tiger Woods may often look otherworldly on the golf course, but he is indeed a mere mortal. We became witness to that once again at the WGC-CA Championship, but not because he didn't win. Nope, he's lost tournaments before -- many more times, in fact, than he's come out on top. Instead, it was Woods' reaction to a photographer clicking a snapshot during his downswing on the ninth hole of the final round that proved he is hardly impervious to even the most subtle distraction.

If William Shakespeare were around today and covering the PGA Tour, he very well may have written the following:

If you prick him, does he not bleed; if you poison him, does he not die? And if you wrong him, do you wonder if he revenges?

Woods had some revenge in mind when the untimely click led to a poor swing and subsequent bogey. ''The next time a photographer shoots a [expletive] picture,'' he hissed, though to no one in particular, "I'm going to break his [expletive] neck.''

A story on in which Woods described his ire toward such a practice has received 1,800 user comments and counting so far, and includes those who are incensed at each of these actions from Woods:

• He used profanity when the cameras were rolling.
• He threatened bodily harm to another person.
• He failed to apologize for said threat.
• He was angered by the clicking in the first place.

OK, let's start at the beginning. Yes, he used profanity -- the "f" word, twice, if you must know -- and yes, the national television cameras were squarely on him at the time. But that's not his concern. Woods has used such language in the past and will do so again in the future, for reasons from being angry with himself for hitting a poor shot to being angry with a photographer for taking a photo too soon. It's pretty apparent he doesn't care about the public reaction, because he continues to do it. For a guy who is almost always Exhibit A for all public relations directors out there, it's one thing -- maybe the one thing -- that makes him look bad.

Then again, it also shows how much Woods cares about every shot, how concerned he is with the result and how disappointed he becomes when factors other than his own swing intervene in the final product. Think of in other terms. If the click bothered Woods and he said nothing, what's to stop a renegade photographer from trying it again? If the click bothered him and he politely asked the photographers to refrain from taking such shots too early, would it be as effective in further prevention? Admit it: For a guy who so often issues the most thoughtful, measured response to any question, it's nice to see the human side come through once in a while.

The threat? Let's be real, folks. This wasn't about Woods holding up some poor sap by the shirt collar and spraying such venom directly at him. As far as thinly veiled threats go, it's right up there with Dad telling the rowdy kids in the backseat that he's going to "turn this car around if you don't behave" after already logging 12 hours on the road to DisneyWorld. Tiger won't be breaking any necks anytime soon, so you can stop with the all-too-literal translation.

When he sat down for an interview with "ESPN First Take" three days after the incident, Woods never said, "I'm sorry." And guess what? He's not. He wants the photographers -- who will be out there again the very next time he tees it up at the Masters -- to know he's unhappy with their performance and won't tolerate the lack of professionalism.

"It's been frustrating because that's what been happening lately," he said. "It's one of the things that comes with playing in the last group, one of the distractions we have to deal with.

"Each time it's happened, well three out of four times, I made bogey. At the time I needed to make birdie, I flinched on it. [The photographer] got me in transition on my downswing."

Which leads us to why he was angered in the first place. It's been said that Woods should remove his "rabbit ears" and stop blaming others for his miscues. Ask any PGA Tour player, though, and they'll confide that there's nothing more distracting than when there's total complete silence and then right in their downswing, just before impact -- BAM! -- something impedes with their concentration. Now, a continuous noise -- say, a generator, a lawnmower or even passing vehicles on a nearby highway -- won't affect them very much, but even the tiniest peep at the exact wrong time can cause a world of damage to the result.

Do a quick Google search and look for action shots of your favorite golfers. Every single one of 'em -- unless it's a staged shot during a non-competitive round -- will show the player in his follow-through, just after impact. This is more than a common courtesy on tour; it's a rule. Photographers on the PGA Tour sign a waiver form before each tournament agreeing to certain restrictions and respecting the wishes of players is right at the top of that list. Woods -- or any other player -- is trying to compete at the highest level of his profession; he's simply asking for those covering him to do the same.

Now that I think about it, if Shakespeare were around today and writing on the aftermath of this "incident," he very well may look at the entire scene, realize the displaced fervor over Woods' outburst, and simply borrow a phrase from a previous work: Much ado about nothing.


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