Bob Harig, ESPN.com
A Golf.com story in which analyst Brandel Chamblee insinuates that Tiger Woods’ high-profile rules violations this year constituted cheating has the golfer’s agent considering a lawsuit.
Mark Steinberg of Excel Sports Management released a statement to ESPN.com and later was clearly angry during a phone interview about Chamblee’s analysis for a Golf.com feature originally published Tuesday in which he gave top players grades and labeled Woods’ season an “F.”
“There’s nothing you can call a golfer worse than a cheater,” Steinberg said. “This is the most deplorable thing I have seen. I’m not one for hyperbole, but this is absolutely disgusting. Calling him a cheater? I’ll be shocked, stunned if something is not done about this. Something has to be done.
“There are certainly things that just don’t go without response. It’s atrocious. I’m not sure if there isn’t legal action to be taken. I have to give some thought to legal action.”
Woods won five times this year on the PGA Tour, captured the Vardon Trophy for low scoring average, led the money list and was voted PGA Tour Player of the Year for the 11th time. But he was also involved in four high-profile rules issues, three of which resulted in two-stroke penalties.
Chamblee, a former PGA Tour player, current analyst on the Golf Channel and frequent critic of Woods’ game and golf swing, rated several players on their years, saving Woods for last.
He wrote: “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.”
Below the summary was “100” with a line through it and “F” beneath it.
Although Chamblee never directly said Woods cheated, Steinberg said the story of his cheating on a grade school test and comparing it to Woods was clear.
Steinberg said Woods was unaware of the report until he brought it to his attention.
Woods is not scheduled to play again until a European Tour event in Turkey next month.
“This is, ‘Hey, look at me,’ in its lowest form,” Steinberg said in his statement. “Brandel Chamblee’s comments are shameful, baseless and completely out of line. In his rulings, Tiger voiced his position, accepted his penalty and moved on. There was no intention to deceive anyone. Chamblee’s uninformed and malicious opinions, passed on as facts, and his desperate attempt to garner attention is deplorable.”
Chamblee summarized Woods’ rules infractions without context.
The first occurred at the Abu Dhabi Championship in January. Woods had taken relief from an embedded lie on the fifth hole of the second round after consulting with another player in the group, Martin Kaymer. It was later determined that the ground was sandy based — from which a free drop is not allowed. Woods would have had to play the ball as it lay or take a one-stroke penalty for an unplayable. He was given a two-stroke penalty and missed the 36-hole cut by a stroke.
At the Masters in April, Woods’ third shot to the par-5 15th hole during the second round hit the flagstick and bounced into the water fronting the green. He had several options for playing his fifth shot, after a penalty, and chose to play from the original spot. The rules call for a player to drop as near as possible to the original spot. Woods, in post-round interviews, said he dropped 2 yards back. He hit the next shot within inches and took a bogey 6 on the hole.
A television viewer — David Eger, a former PGA Tour rules official, no less — called tournament officials questioning the drop. Masters officials never discussed it with Woods and let him sign for a 6 on the hole. Only later did they come to realize there might have been a problem, and the following morning they added two strokes to Woods’ score, meaning he took an 8 on the hole.
A controversy ensued because Woods was not disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard. Masters officials maintained they erred by not discussing the possibility of an infraction before letting him sign.
At the Players Championship in May, Woods was questioned about his final-round drop on the par-4 14th hole, which curves around a water hazard. Woods had hit his drive into the water and asked playing partner Casey Wittenberg where the ball last crossed the hazard. In interviews afterward, Wittenberg was emphatic about where the ball crossed the hazard and said he told Woods where to drop. However, many felt after viewing videotape that Woods gave himself a break by dropping farther ahead than he should have been allowed. He made a double-bogey 6 on the hole but went on to win the tournament.
And last month at the BMW Championship, Woods was assessed a two-stroke penalty because his ball moved while he attempted to remove a twig from behind it. Woods argued to rules officials afterward that his ball did not change position, but high-definition video showed the ball moved, even if slightly. Because he did not replace it to its original position, Woods was hit with a two-stroke penalty. The double-bogey 6 he made turned into an 8.
“Brandel has a right to form his opinion,” Steinberg said. “If he wants to give him an ‘F’ for his year? It’s silly. But this goes so far above that and is out of bounds. It’s stunning.”