Views and opinions from our writers in Pacific Northwest Golfer Magazine
by Blaine Newnham
I hope that if he plays in the Masters, it is next year’s Masters. We’ve all invested time and emotion in this guy.
I first saw him as a 16-year-old at Seattle’s Jefferson Park GC, giving a clinic to city kids.
A role model. Then, especially then. He had already won two U.S. Junior Amateur Championships, and yet was as much about discipline and dedication as he was about hitting golf balls.
I saw him win his third of three U..S. Amateurs, at Pumpkin Ridge in Portland. And then four straight major championships at Pebble Beach, St. Andrews, Valhalla and, yes, Augusta National.
No athlete I had been around in 40 years in the business had accomplished as much. Or been so insulated.
People ask me all the time if I had some idea what was going on outside the ropes. Absolutely not.
I knew I was growing tired of his deportment inside the ropes. The only good that has come so far out of all of this was Tom Watson’s gutty admonishment of Woods in the early wake of the revelations of his bad behavior.
At the 2009 British Open at Turnberry, Tom Watson’s improbable run at the title and his graciousness in defeat further sealed his reputation as one of the game’s great sportsmen. His on-course behavior has made him beloved by fans on both sides of the Atlantic.
Photo by Ed Kageyama
Watson has become golf’s great elder statesman. He was the one who had to tell Woods to apologize for his transgressions off the course while at the same time cleaning up his act on the golf course – stop the cussing, the club throwing and the disrespect.
Jack Nicklaus couldn’t do it because it would be as if he were trying to put down his nearest rival for the title of greatest player. The others – Trevino, Player, Palmer – were too irrelevant. Too much of another era. Watson nearly won last year’s British Open.
Did the press go too far in pulling back the sheets on Woods other life?
I don’t think so. He was marketed as one thing while he was regrettably another. He was pictured as perfect when he wasn’t. He didn’t have to take the money from Nike for a campaign that offered him as one of the world’s great change agents.
He didn’t have to get married and start a family. He had options. What was he thinking? That we’d look the other way?
I believe his public apology was heart-felt. I just wish he hadn’t adamantly assured us that his wife hadn’t assaulted him without telling us what happened that night inside and outside his home.
He didn’t have to talk about it at all. We don’t have to know everything. But what we really want to know is that he is finally telling us the truth. If she didn’t hit him, who did?
If Woods has shown more passion for anything than chasing women it is winning major golf championships. And, finally, surpassing Nicklaus by winning the most.
For him, for his family, for us, for golf, he needs to bypass this year’s Masters. He needs to sacrifice one pleasure for those others. He needs to show everyone that he is willing to pay a price to play again, to have us care again about his march to history.
That, indeed, his family does come first.
I think he’ll survive this episode. Neither history nor the golf community will abandon him. He is too important, too good to be slighted.
Sure, we’ll all view him somewhat differently than we did before. If nothing else, we know like all of us he is human, that he doesn’t make every 10-foot putt that really matters. Not in life, anyway.
With sponsors dropping him, he might never make the money he did. He has plenty of money. He needs peace in his life. And victory over his demons.
Not the field at Augusta National.
Blaine Newnham is the former sports columnist and assistant managing editor for the Seattle Times. He covered the 1966 U.S. Open, following Ben Hogan around the Olympic Club. He covered his first Masters in 1987, when Larry Mize won it in a playoff with an unlikely chip shot. He covered the four majors of the “Tiger Slam”, when Woods won his four consecutive championships. In 2002, Blaine wrote a book titled “Golf Basics”.