Tiger’s Bad Behavior

Skimming my Twitter timeline Tuesday morning, I came across Bob Carney’s moderation of the Editors’ Blog in Golf Digest.

It was intended to be an open forum for the readers to express their “reaction to a passionate Masters…Bubba’s, Phil’s and (oh, yeah) Tiger’s.” But it ended up being substantially about Tiger’s profanity and especially his club-kicking after a poor tee shot on the par-3 16th.

The consensus was that Tiger should be sanctioned in some way by somebody. The PGA Tour is gutless, they say, so perhaps the people who most care about the integrity and traditions of the game, The Masters, should deal with Tiger’s boorish behavior.

Carney closed the commentary off with this:

Ahem. Do you guys play golf? Are you really that well-behaved? I congratulate you, but in the spirit of the season [Easter], suggest just a smidgen of forgiveness. Friday night I was on a panel with Masters Champions Craig Stadler and Bernhard Langer when they were asked about Tiger’s behavior. It came as no shock that Stadler was empathetic. If anyone understands on-course emotion, it’s the Walrus. But Langer, too, was understanding, not at all judgmental, downright forgiving. What both tried to convey was the enormous pressure of a competition like the Masters and the determination that curdles to despair when things go wrong. Tiger, in his own way, apologized. But – just me here – if you want players to possess the kind of passion Bubba rode to his first Green Jacket, you’ve got to make room for some of the red-ass as well.

Yet another apologist and enabler for Tiger…and a profane one at that. And no, when you have your ten-year-old son or daughter sitting on the couch with you watching who you profess to be the greatest player ever, you don’t have to make room for abhorrent, childish behavior on the part of the alleged hero.

What Carney misses in all of this good old boy collaboration with Stadler and Langer is that the winner of this year’s Masters, Bubba Watson, won because he finally turned his back on all of this churlish, childish behavior. His wife, Angie, and his caddie and good friend, Ted Scott, had an intervention. And Ted told him that he would walk away from Bubba’s bag if he didn’t get himself under control because he didn’t want to have to watch a good friend destroy himself. Who knows what would have been possible for Craig Stadler – love him though the guys on Tour do – if he had been able to re-channel his chronic, dour negativity and anger into more productive behavior.

Anger, particularly white-hot reactive anger, takes you out of the zone. Tiger may say that it’s a release for him, that as soon as he spouts it, he forgets it and moves on. But the effects of that sort of outburst linger. First of all, it increases your heart rate, blood pressure, respiration rate and makes way too big a deal out of what went wrong rather than just letting it pass so that your attention can completely go to the next shot.

And it poisons the well of your well being and can change your optimism to fatalism and resignation, hard places to come back from. Just ask John Daly. Underneath Tiger’s post-round veneer about how he just has to get back at it and figure out why he can’t do what he knows how to do, was some of that thinly veiled resignation. That can sometimes be a “re-boot” of sorts, but the game would be so much simpler if he never got there in the first place. Mostly it hangs like a pall over your spirit.

Tiger will one day come to see that, but probably not before he has his intervention just as Bubba had his. With his father gone, one wonders where that will come from?

It will probably come from a lightning bolt moment, perhaps around all of the kids his foundation helps or maybe even his own. In that moment when he’s truly able to see that his value as a mentor to kids he claims to care so much about is degraded by his boorish behavior, perhaps that will be his sobering moment.

Accenture, Gatorade, Tag Heuer, Gillette, Golf Digest and AT&T, sponsors who abandoned ship when his infidelity was revealed, are the kinds of things that at least got his attention and he has attempted to be more civil with the press and the fans. But Nike, EA Sports, Upper Deck and NetJets among others, continue to provide a cushion from true consequences for his behavior. And they all make so much money from each other at this point it is unlikely that any of these endorsement contracts would not be renewed. When those latter sponsors see that the value of their relationships could be increased with their intervention, perhaps then we might see improvement.

But so far, given his continuing profanity lapses, his rehabilitation appears to be primarily for show. There is still the profane man-child. There have been ample examples of how Christianity has molded many professional golfers into upstanding citizens. One wonders how Tiger’s choice of following Buddhism would inform his process? What could be there for him if he had a true incentive to explore it?

It would have to be something that would offer him a different view of himself, to see himself as an innate spirit above the fray of the material world. A spirit that knows its own imperviousness and is thus able to move through the world unaffected by it, to include misfortune on golf courses. A spirit that is calm and completely present in the moment.

People are starting to see through that flashy golf game and the elegant Nike attire to the person beneath it all. The recrimination in the Golf Digest comments was palpable. When parents can no longer risk sitting down on the couch with their kids to watch Tiger play, the tide will turn. And that day looms closer as the din of his profanity and the complaints about it rise.

What Tiger has yet to see is just how debilitating his behavior is to his game, something Craig Stadler may finally have seen as he whiles away his final competitive years on the Champions Tour.

Tiger is such a public figure that the collective consciousness of the culture will finally come around to understanding that the man behind the mask is a pretender, a pretender who believes himself to be helpless to manage his anger…and that it’s somehow charming. But it’s not true. Adults do it all the time and still remain highly effective.

Hopefully the day is near when Tiger will finally see that his choice to break through into the light is a better one. And that once he does, his life will be a better one too.

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4 Responses to Tiger’s Bad Behavior

  1. Smilin' Jack says:

    Tiger has spent his life hiding from the public, but the last months have revealed much to us. The sad fact is that his humanness is what we crave, but his lack of Humility for his God given talents is what we abhor. Tiger no longer need hide from us, but his unwillingness to face himself will destroy his opportunity to fulfill his destiny. Tiger’s swing is not his issue, but his inability to cross the gap between The Child and The Man, a crevice he cannot cross alone.

  2. Rayzor says:

    When Langer and Stadler were asked about Tiger’s behavior it’s asking one of the good old boys from the good old boys club to criticize or comment on one of there own. It’s not going to happen. I think I have come to the realization over the past short while that pro golfers are not very nice and courteous guys. I keep hearing stories of very bad treatment of fans by these guys and have also witnessed bad treatment and I think it’s about time we wake up and understand they are just not the kind of upstanding citizens we might think they are. What makes them like this? Maybe it’s EGO. Whatever it is or whatever causes it, is self controllable and they had better start trying to turn it around or they are going to turn in to grumpy and non fan friendly old senior tour golfers just like the ones we have now.
    The more things change the more they remain the same.

  3. John Monteleone says:

    Bill,
    Ben Hogan’s remark that “the most important shot in golf is your next one” is more than a call to refocus after a bad shot or bad bounce or putt that lipped out. Embracing Hogan’s advice allows a player to experience each event in golf—good and bad—with equanimity, to absorb whatever lesson the moment teaches, and to demonstrate commitment to the journey. Tiger’s nerdy, reclusive life keeps him from this mature and productive way of playing golf and living his life. Tiger is a great player, a substandard person. Par golf isn’t the road to paradise and personal fulfillment.

    John

  4. Guy Ruthmansdorfer says:

    Par golf isn’t the road to paradise and personal fulfillment. Well put that is exactly what Bubba figured out and has lead to his success.