COMMENTARY -- Don't feed the bears. Well, in this case, don't feed the hair.
Pay no mind to a certain Golf Channel analyst and Golf Magazine commentator. Like so many writers offended by the name of Washington, D.C.'s NFL franchise, I'm bothered by the sensationalist vendetta this analyst has against Tiger Woods.
The analyst wrote a piece for Golf Magazine, offering his grades for the just-finished 2013 PGA Tour season. Clearly lacking a rubric, the grades were erratic.
When it came time to issue a report card for Tiger Woods, this analyst gave the world No. 1 and five-time 2013 winner a failing grade.
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.*
Meanwhile, Jason Dufner got an "A++" for publicly patting his wife, Amanda, on the ass after winning the PGA Championship to put a capstone on an otherwise forgettable year. That's logical.
Obviously the piece was disingenuous. It's a hit grab, with editors hoping to lure people into the article by leading with the money shot. "Guy who already dislikes Tiger Woods gives his 2013 an F! Click now and be enraged or feel affirmed!" It happens on the Internet all the time: Corgi galleries on Buzzfeed, anything about ESPN on Deadspin, you get the idea. In principle, there's nothing wrong with it, and it works.
The problem is that this certain analyst crossed a line with his clever use of the word "cavalier." The analyst implied another "c" word: cheater.
Is Tiger Woods a cheater? Hardly. Did he have a year filled with stunning rules gaffes? Absolutely.
Woods took a two-stroke penalty for taking improper relief at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. He missed the cut.
Then Woods took an improper drop at the Masters, one not as near as possible to where he played his unfortunate third shot at the par-5 15th in the second round. Woods spoke of the drop with ESPN after the round, letting his rules ignorance slip when describing the drop. It was clear Woods was unaware of the proper drop spot. He should have been disqualified under the Rules of Golf for signing an incorrect scorecard, but Augusta National officials ruled it was partly their fault for not alerting Woods before he signed his scorecard. Woods was docked another two shots and lost a tournament he probably could have won.
At The Players Championship, Woods hit a snap-hook tee shot at the par-4 14th hole in the final round. Upon impact, Woods did the absolutely wrong thing: dropped his head and turned away in disgust. Instead of watching intently for where his ball would cross the margin of the lateral water hazard, he left it up to caddie Joe Lacava, playing partner Casey Wittenberg and his caddie to agree on a place to drop the ball. Woods made double bogey on the hole, but still managed to win the tournament -- primarily thanks to Sergio Garcia playing the final two holes in 6 over par.
Finally, Woods was stubborn in denying his ball moved while clearly brush around it during the BMW Championship. Freelance cameramen with PGA Tour Entertainment shot the ball moving, alerting Tour officials to the likely penalty. The Tour agreed, but Woods didn't, insisting his ball "oscillated" in the face of what appeared to be clear evidence to the contrary. Two more strokes on the scorecard, but Woods' defiance probably dinged him much more in the court of public opinion and among his peers, who reportedly made jokes at his expense about the incident.
Four incidents in a year is bizarre. Three of them resulted in penalties. Woods only went on to win one of the four tournaments, largely thanks to an epic choke job. However, this is a small sample size.
Woods admitted at the Tour Championship in September that he'd never had a similar kind of year filled with rules infractions as he did in 2013. So, as should be done in evaluating his entire career, it's important to take a step back and look at the entire picture.
The world No. 1 has played in 309 PGA Tour events. It wasn't until this season and this bizarre string of rules violations that the insinuations began that Woods is a cheat -- at golf, that is.
Well, that's not true. The conspiracy theorists have long suggested Woods has been taking performance-enhancing drugs, pointing to the relationship with indicted Canadian doctor Anthony Galea, whose dealings with the likes of admitted doper Alex Rodriguez naturally raises red flags. However, a certain subset of fans are convinced Woods is guilty by association.
But, in both cases -- with the rules and the drugs -- there's plenty of reason to doubt the skeptics and tin-hatters.
Tiger Woods knows that every, yes, every, move he makes is viewed under a powerful microscope. How he walks, when he goes to the bathroom, when he spits, how he swings, his gait, the car he drives, every shot he takes or doesn't. It's all being observed. So why, then, would Woods blatantly cheat at golf? He knows he will be caught, like he was in Chicago. And if the trope put out about Tiger's competition post-hydrant is true, then Woods' peers are no longer intimidated by the guy. There's no fear, of losing or reprisal, meaning some massive dogleg-right-wing conspiracy is impossible.
As for Galea, Woods has never failed a drug test under the PGA Tour's Anti-Doping Program. Though it has its massive flaws, that's the best barometer we have of Woods' fidelity to "natural" methods of strength training and conditioning. If that's not good enough, former teacher Hank Haney, around for the Galea relationship, swore in his book "The Big Miss" that there was nothing suspect happening in a centrifuge. That's not spin.
The takeaway from all of this should be that Woods needs a remedial rules seminar and a lesson in the kind of humility Ted Cruz desperately needs to embrace. Woods i's not a cheater.
The Golf Channel analyst seems to have a vendetta against Tiger Woods that he just cannot let go. It certainly comes across as one. It began as a critique of Woods' swing choices, particularly with Sean Foley, who was happy to fire back across the bow. As Woods' win tally with Foley grew -- as did Foley's stable to include U.S. Open champion Justin Rose, whose swing the Golf Channel analyst loves -- it became more difficult to critique the technicals. Then it became the approach, which is merited considering the conservative style in majors has arguably become his greatest detriment. And that all brought it to this: labeling Tiger Woods a cheat.
The problem is that someone who is adored for "telling it like it is" often begins to believe their own hype. A transformation happens, whereby the truth-teller believes they're speaking from on Sinai on every topic. Every sentence is more important the one that precedes it -- or at least as important. And when evidence flies in the face of their declarations, the person has to respond either by doubling down on or changing the narrative. In this case, the latter was the unfortunate choice.
In a "we report, you decide" kind of world, opinions are shared like facts. So-and-so said this on this topic that doesn't directly involve them, click here. Swipe to read commentary from a voice on the fringe of germane to a discussion (like this one!). Usually it's in good, clean fun, but this is different.
Calling Tiger Woods a cheater is like calling for the impeachment of President Obama, or Bush 43 before that. It's a stance not rooted in reality but one that sounds good to certain people. Reject that kind of extremism.
On an old episode of "The Simpsons," Springfield was overrun by commercial characters holding the town for ransom. When it dawned on Lisa that the characters survived only on attention paid to them, she crafted a song, "Just Don't Look," to hammer some sense into the townspeople. The characters fell into line knowing their hold over Springfield had been broken.
So, if you're sick and tired of obvious attempts at trolling, like this was, just don't look.