AFTER four separate incidents this year in which his actions attracted scrutiny, it was only a matter of time before someone broke ranks and aimed a slur at Tiger Woods that is potentially more damaging than the grief he brought on himself just under three years ago by his adultery.
Step forward Brandel Chamblee, who until now – on this side of the Atlantic at least – was probably only known for having the sort of name you personally feel glad that you weren’t lumbered with, but has now made himself the talk of the golfing steamie.
In what can only be described as an explosive article in the US magazine Golf, Chamblee, a former PGA Tour player and now the Golf Channel’s lead analyst, ripped into Woods as he labelled him a cheat, an accusation that is likely to provoke legal action by the world No 1.
“There’s nothing you can call a golfer worse than a cheater,” said Mark Steinberg, Woods’ agent, in his initial response to the article. “This is the most deplorable thing I have seen. Calling him a cheater? I’ll be shocked, stunned if something is not done about this. Something has to be done. There are things that just don’t go without response. It’s atrocious.”
Why Chamblee and why now? The moment I saw his name and what he had said, my mind instantly drifted back to the Saturday morning of this year’s Masters and arriving in the media centre at Augusta to the news that Woods had been punished two shots for taking an incorrect drop the previous day after his ball had found the water hazard at the 15th.
Hastily switching on the Golf Channel, there was Chamblee analysing the incident along with Nick Faldo. The pair were in total agreement. Woods should have disqualified himself and failing to do anything less than fall on his own sword would leave a cloud over the game and the rest of the player’s career.
Later the same day, now wearing a CBS jacket, Faldo backtracked and gave Woods “the benefit of the doubt”, a change of tone that you couldn’t help think had been encouraged by someone in a powerful position with that particular tournament having a word in Faldo’s ear as he changed over to the host broadcaster. But, while the Englishman had effectively been silenced over that incident, it has clearly been eating away at Chamblee, who, in giving exam grades in his magazine article, awarded the 14-times major winner an “F” and used an analogy that left no room for doubt as to why the grade was so shocking in a season that delivered five victories and in which Woods was named as the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year.
“When I was in the fourth grade,” penned Chamblee, “I cheated on a maths 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 practise 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 I never forgot the way I felt.”
Drawing a line through a score of 100 and giving Woods an F, Chamblee added: “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.”
Chamblee will be asked to provide evidence to back up that claim if this goes to court but, this year, Woods has certainly been careless with the rules. He was also hit with penalties in the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship and the Deutsche Bank Championship while a drop he took in the Players Championship was debatable, too.
Tom Watson, for one, is convinced Woods made genuine mistakes each time but, sorry, if that happens four times in the one season you’re going to have people asking questions. Even more so when you are the most recognisable golfer to set foot on the planet.
Chamblee is paid to be controversial at times and, as long as he is not scared about being hit by a costly lawsuit, will be loving the attention. He is not alone, however, in being someone who has gone from a huge Tiger fan to a critic. And, if reports now emerging that Woods would not even look at a slow-motion replay of his latest rules incident and stormed off effing and blinding are true, then we have obviously reached the dangerous stage where he thinks he is above the game’s golden rules.
Let’s see some others match McKechnie’s bottle
Understandably over-joyed, Paul McKechnie made his point loud and clear after finishing in the top five on the PGA EuroPro Tour money-list to secure a Challenge Tour card next season at the age of 36.
“There aren’t many people who’ve shown as big b**** as I have by going out there without a single penny of sponsorship and achieving something like this,” declared the man who has a foot in both sides of the country by living in Milton of Campsie but being attached to the Braid Hills Golf Centre.
McKechnie’s achievement is indeed remarkable and one that will hopefully be recognised when the places are being dished out next year on Team Scottish Hydro, the splendid support scheme that has been in place now for three seasons and has already helped both Craig Lee and Chris Doak progress their careers. McKechnie is similar to both those players, having long been renowned for having talent but, apart from a brief flirtation with the Challenge Tour a decade ago, being stuck at the coalface trying to make ends meet.
While there’s nothing more exciting than seeing a young player doing well and David Law, in particular, is starting to make real progress in the paid ranks, McKechnie has offered hope to those who have to shed blood, sweat and tears to achieve their career goals. Sponsorship is in short supply in Scotland, which is a great pity. But, if the raw talent is there in any individual, coupled with adequate self-belief, then let’s see them show b****, too, by using these third-tier circuits as a stepping stone rather than somewhere that careers are stalling.