‘I’ve Talked To Bernie, That’s It’ Declares Tiger.

If you thought you needed any assurance you had had found your place in a chosen field then that comes sometimes when someone of higher authority or stature publicly acknowledges your work or presence.

It could be a school teacher being singled out by the school head in front of the entire school or an office worker praised by the CEO in front of the entire company workforce.

It was well into the latter half of 2013 when controversial TV analyst, and former PGA Tour player, Brandel Chamblee, and in writing an article for Golf.com, gave Tiger Woods an ‘F’ in marking a report card of several players performances over the course of the year.

The then 14-time Major winning Woods had won five times in 2013 and was voted by his peers as ‘2013 PGA Tour Player of the Year’.

Chamblee, a long-time critic of Woods, competed in 370 Tour events between 1983 and 2008 but winning just one and that was the lowly-ranked 1988 Vancouver Open while me made an appearance in 14 majors but missed the halfway cut in eight of those, and with achievement also in reaching as high as 58th on the World Rankings.

Chamblee’s ‘F’ marking of Woods’ 2013 season, and resulting from some highly-publised rules incidents that year caused a huge ruckus.

He explained his grading of Woods as a result of his own ridiculous failing and graded Woods because of his opinion that he played fast and loose with the rules on four separate occasions during the course of 2013.

“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,” Chamblee wrote.

“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.”

Woods manager, Mark Steinberg was so incensed he threatened to take legal action against Chamblee and stating, in part, “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.”

Steinberg, and talking at the time to ESPN, further elaborated by saying there was “nothing you can call a golfer worse than a cheater”.

Chamblee would issue a statement, but not mentioning the word ‘apology’, stating: “My intention was to note Tiger’s rules infractions this year, but comparing that to cheating in grade school went too far”.

Woods then travelled to Hainan Island off the coast of mainland China for an October 28th, 2013 match against Rory McIlroy.   Their first match, and won by McIlroy, had been a year earlier also in China.

I had been in Shanghai a week prior reporting on the European Tour’s BMW Masters at Lake Malaren and then made my way to Hainan Island and looking forward to the ‘Match at Mission Hills’ after having been in Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan province, in 2012 where McIlroy beat Woods amid the craziest scenes, I have ever witnessed golf in the ‘Duel at Lake Jinshia’.

I was filing to Associated Press that day at Mission Hills and found Woods on the practice putting, and as he headed the long downhill walk to the first tee, I asked if I could walk and talk with him.

Woods agreed:  “Yeah Bernie. That’s fine”.

Naturally, one of my first questions was to ask Woods if Chamblee’s so-called ‘apology’ was the end of the matter but then Woods’ responded otherwise.

”All I am going to say is that I know I am going forward,” said Woods.

“‘But then, I don’t know what the Golf Channel is going to do or not. But then that’s up to them. The whole issue has been very disappointing as he didn’t really apologize and he sort of reignited the whole situation.

”So, the ball really is in the court of the Golf Channel and what they are prepared to do.”

I thought to myself ‘this matter ignited by Chamblee is clearly far from over and also what a great follow-up’ line even though Chamblee had written his controversial piece for Golf.com and not the Golf Channel.

I thanked Woods as he headed off to join McIlroy on the tee but no sooner had they teed-off and Steinberg approached me.

“Hey Bernie?  Tiger just mentioned to me he was talking to you,” he said.   I confirmed he had.  In contacting AP with news of Woods said to me, I was unnecessary criticised their then chief golf correspondent, Doug Ferguson in allowing myself to be influenced by Steinberg to alter one of two of Tiger’s words to me.

To say I was pissed off with Ferguson’s intervention is an understatement.

Steinberg, who I knew enough to approach and share niceties, could have easily asked not me to publish what Woods had said to me but all he did was politely ask to alter a few words.   I have developed a good relationship with Woods, and for the sake of a few words, I was not going to spoil that relationship.

The world of journalism is full of those who think their precious and get about with this ‘holier than thou’ attitude and, trust me, there are also plenty working covering golf.

I’m not for a minute sticking Ferguson in this category but for the sake of changing a few words I was still presented with a story that made headlines around the sporting globe:

Tiger Woods challenges Golf Channel over Brandel …

Woods: Ball in the court of Golf Channel …

Tiger Woods on Chamblee: ‘Ball is in court of Golf Channel …

Tiger Woods hints Golf Channel should punish Brandel …

Woods returned home and I followed McIlroy back to Shanghai for the HSBC Champions but knowing Woods would be teeing-up the following week at the inaugural European Tour hosting of the Turkish Airlines Open in Belek.

Tiger Woods speaking ahead of the 2013 Turkish Airlines Open. (Photo – European Tour)

A Woods conference no matter where it takes place will always draw a jam-packed audience and on this Wednesday morning 6th November, 2013 was no different.   The auditorium within the glittering Royal Maxx Hotel was packed to capacity with the Turkish Government officials, Turkish Airlines executives, representatives of the Turkish Golf Federations, the CEO and other leading officials of the European Tour, senior executives of ISM and running the event.

There was also invited guests plus who knows how many TV cameras and photographers alond with members of the media from Turkey and across Europe.

Woods was introduced by the European Tour’s media officer, Michael Gibbons.

He was asked a number of questions such as whether he ever would consider joining the European Tour and also the state of his game along with his reaction a day earlier in hitting a golf ball on the Bosphorus Bridge that links Europe with Asia.

Then there was this 10th question to Woods.

  1. Can you tell us what you thought of Brandel Chamblee’s interview on the Golf Channel last week, and also have you received a personal apology from him?
    TIGER WOODS:  Well, I’ve said everything I’m going to say.  I talked to Bernie about it when I was in Hainan Island, and that’s it.

I was sitting close to my colleague, Martin Dempster of the Scotsman who asked that question.

Immediately I felt half the eyes in the auditorium looking at me but then as I looked about there was a few thumbs-up and afterwards plenty of slaps of the back from those who were not only my long-time friends but also my long-time golf reporting colleagues.

Woods’ could have easily not mentioned my first name but he did and I still take enormous pride to this day he did.

I had always worked in respecting those who I interviewed and often many would become my friend, and for that matter they remain friends but then not that close, as some of my colleagues, knowing too that there will be those days when you may have to write something negative.

One of those friends is Tiger Woods.

 

 



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