LATEST ON TIGER WOODS / SOBEL: TIGER'S DEMISE GREATLY EXAGGERATED
 

MANILA, FEBRUARY 16, 2011 (ASSOCIATED PRESS)  Tiger Woods apologizes after European Tour fines him for spitting in Dubai.

[PHOTO - Screen capture from YouTube of Tiger Woods spitting on the green of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic over the weekend.]

Tiger Woods apologized after he was fined an undisclosed sum by the European Tour on Monday for spitting during the final round of the Dubai Desert Classic.

The tour said in a statement that tournament director Mike Stewart reviewed the matter and “feels there has been a breach of the tour code of conduct.”

“The Euro Tour is right — it was inconsiderate to spit like that and I know better,” Woods said on Twitter. “Just wasn’t thinking and want to say I’m sorry.”

Woods spit on the 12th green after missing a par putt on his way to a 3-over 75. He began the final day one shot off the lead but never recovered after making two bogeys in his first three holes.

The 14-time major winner, now ranked No. 3, finished tied for 20th place at 4-under 284. Woods has gone 17 tournaments without a win for the first time since turning professional in 1996.

The tour’s code of conduct states that when a player becomes a member he “voluntarily submits himself to standards of behaviour and ethical conduct beyond those required of ordinary golfers and members of the public.” The tour said it would not disclose the amount of the fine.

Television cameras spotted Woods spitting in an earlier round in the Dubai tournament.

Ewen Murray, a commentator for Britain’s Sky Sports, said on air after seeing Woods spit on the second tee during the second round that it was “one of the ugliest things you will ever see on a golf course.”

On Sunday, after Woods spit on the 12th green, Murray said that “somebody now has to come behind him and maybe putt over his spit. It does not get much lower than that.” The Associated Press

Tiger Woods' demise greatly exaggerated By Jason Sobel ESPN.com FEBRUARY 13, 2011

"What an incredible Cinderella story, this unknown comes out of nowhere to lead the pack ..."

Those, of course, are the famous words of Carl Spackler, as played by Bill Murray in the golf epic "Caddyshack." You and your golfing buddies aren't the only ones who know those words verbatim, either.

"It's my favorite movie hands down," said D.A. Points, Murray's partner at Pebble Beach this week. "It was a challenge to not recite lines, because obviously he hears it everywhere he goes. But he did give us a couple of nice ones."

None were nicer than those about the Cinderella story. More than three decades after the film was produced, they rang truer than ever, as Murray teamed with Points to claim the pro-am portion of the proceedings.

While the Weekly 18 will delve into all things Spackler -- er, Murray -- let's first start with a guy who once played him in a television commercial. It was hardly a Cinderella story for Tiger Woods this week, but the good news is, we shouldn't read too much into how he fared.

So he's got that going for him ... which is nice.

1. The Waiting Game

Golf is a game of patience. Think about it: The actual combined time to hit every shot in a round might not surpass more than a minute or two. But of course, the game isn't played that way. There's the walking ... and the strategizing ... and the waiting ... and the waiting ... and the waiting ...

And yet, when it comes to proffering opinions on some of the game's biggest stars, it appears patience is a virtue of the past and waiting is a game played by very few.

In what has become a recurring theme in his past few tournaments, Tiger Woods displayed stretches of both terrific golf this past week in Dubai and extremely poor golf. There was a heaping portion of the latter on Sunday, when he posted a 3-over 75 to drop from one stroke off the lead through 54 holes to a share of 20th place when it was over.

Is this a red flag that his game isn't where it needs to be? Yes. Does it insinuate that his swing, short game and confidence level all need some major improvements in the very near future? Absolutely. Does it portend greater struggles for him over the long term? No way.

Certainly the guy is going through a rough patch with his game right now, but it's hardly a determinant of his impending future.

I feel like I'm in the minority, though. In the Age of Twitter, our need-it-now society often celebrates success or decries failure well before the journey has been completed. In the case of Woods, it seems like when he hits a solid shot, he's "back;" when he misses poorly, he's "done." No longer is the wait-and-see approach proper strategy, since opinions can change at a moment's notice anyway.

It doesn't help that most have selective memory when it comes to Tiger. His dominance is often recalled, but let's remember: He never won every event, never even won more than he lost. Yes, he prevailed by 15 strokes at the 2000 U.S. Open and 8 one month later at the Open Championship. If your contention is that he will never again be the same player who triumphed by so many at Pebble Beach and St. Andrews, you're right. That said, there's a great chance that nobody will ever dominate in that manner, so making such a proclamation isn't exactly going out on the weakest limb.

Those who claim he will never win a major championship would be wise to remember that Jack Nicklaus remained stuck on 14 for nearly three full years before eventually adding four more titles to reach his now-legendary total of 18.

It's not just Woods, though. Following weekend scores of 75-74 after claiming an early lead, Rory McIlroy has dissenters, too. While I'll be the first to point out that his two career victories came from way in front and way behind and that he's struggled to prove he can close, I'll also be the first to contend that at 21 years old it would be ignorant to make any gross presumptions about his future status as a winner based solely on recent history.

And then there's Sergio Garcia. Golf fans' favorite whipping boy surprisingly climbed the leaderboard in Dubai, only to unsurprisingly falter, posting a 3-over 75 while paired with Woods in the final round. Though he hasn't won a title anywhere since 2008, it's easy to forget that this is a player who won 18 times worldwide before turning 30. I maintain that his recent performance is more an indication of upcoming resurgence than prolonged indifference, but I'm willing to show a little patience and wait to see the end of this story.

These things go both ways, too. If you're attempting to project the end of the Tiger era, dispel overinflated opinions of Rory and predict the continued downward spiral of Sergio based on the weekend in Dubai, you must also praise winner Alvaro Quiros as the next elite player, runners-up James Kingston and Anders Hansen as dogged competitors and weekend mover Alvaro Velasco as a brilliant up-and-coming talent.

While those assessments might not be completely invalid, it would be unwise to make such rash declarations after one tournament, just as it is unwise to downgrade Woods, McIlroy and Garcia based solely on their imperfect results.

Golf is cyclical in nature. The best players understand how to ride the highs and limit the lows, ensuring more top performances than their fellow competitors. Every player endures those lows, though, whether it means for an uncharacteristically prolonged period like Woods, quixotically only in final rounds like McIlroy or even seemingly for years like Garcia.

There's recent precedence here, too. World No. 1 Lee Westwood and fellow top-10 player Steve Stricker both had extended stretches during their careers when they simply couldn't compete at the level necessary to be an elite golfer. At those times, each was probably considered "done" by many observers, but those who practiced patience have witnessed the value of such an exercise.

Feel free to give up on Woods now, contending he'll never be a top-flight player again. Call McIlroy simply a final-round flake and Garcia a coulda-been who became a never-was. You might be proven right someday. Or maybe -- just maybe -- those who wait for good things to come from this trio will be rewarded for such diligence in due time.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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