Tiger Too Important To Be Fined

Bobby Curran
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Friday - August 19, 2009
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Following Tiger Woods’ fifth victory of the year at the Bridgestone, he made some comments about being put on the clock on the 16th tee, and surmised that it may have led to Padraig Harrington’s meltdown on the hole, effectively clinching the win for Woods.

“I told Paddy that it was a shame John got in the way of a great battle,” said Woods, referring to tour referee John Paramor. Later, a PGA official anonymously told an AP reporter that Woods would be fined for his remarks. The PGA players handbook prohibits “unreasonable attacks or disparaging comments” to the media about anything to do with the tour. Since Tiger’s statements seemed neither unreasonable nor disparaging, I wondered how this was going to fly.

Within a day, Tiger labeled the report “erroneous,” and said he would not be fined, which the PGA later confirmed. What PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem realizes, even if his anonymous staffer does not, is that Tiger Woods is not just another schmoe.

He is the engine that drives the PGA bus. You don’t go and fine Tiger Woods for some marginal or imagined offense.

Someone asked why, then, did the San Diego Chargers fine Antonio Cromartie for his tweet impugning the food in training camp? There’s an easy answer. Nobody is attending or watching an NFL game because Cromartie is playing. Like most professional athletes, Cromartie is subject to the disciplinary whims of his team and league. Though well-paid, they have about the same rights as serfs in a feudal system. They have no leverage. Tiger, though, is the reason many people tune in to golf. Television ratings are 40 percent higher when Tiger plays; if he’s in the hunt on Sunday, that number spikes to 60 percent.

Galleries are half again as big when Tiger plays, and merchandise sales follow suit.

Tiger doesn’t seem disposed to throw his weight around much, but don’t tick him off. Just imagine that Finchem had taken leave of his senses and fined Woods $10,000. Tiger wouldn’t feel the fine, but he might be irritated enough to say, “OK, but by the way, that Fed Ex Cup thing you’re so excited about? Count me out. I’m going to another network and we’re going to do a couple of made-for-TV matches for charity - call it the Fed-Up Cup. Oh, and no need to disturb me this fall or winter - I’ll just see you at Augusta.”

Tiger Woods has all the leverage. That’s the reality. You don’t tug on Superman’s cape and you don’t get petty with Tiger Woods.

The early surprise at UH training camp has to be Australian punter Alex Dunnachie. At 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, Dunnachie is a bigger, stronger version of Matt McBriar. He is routinely booting punts 70 yards in the air with hang times well over five seconds, and also is skilled at the increasingly popular rollout rugby-style kick. He will be an absolute weapon for the Warriors this season.

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