Cheating on Tour – Careful with that Word
Tiger Wood’s agent, Mark Steinberg, is right about anyone being accused of cheating – it’s a huge deal (unless we’re talking about Mississippi Riverboat gamblers or pirates). Any iffy moment on the golf course that straddles the border between knowing and not knowing the rules, maybe grounding a club for balance or maybe not, hitting the wrong ball and depending on a foreign language to talk about it, or any number of good or bad reasons for signing an incorrect scorecard – they’re all a big deal, on both sides of the argument.
The word “cheat” or “cheater” is an enormous albatross to hang around anyone’s neck. Whether true, false, or blown out of proportion, it will follow you throughout your career. It’s one of those stains that won’t come out, no matter what you use on it, and whatever is happening, everyone needs to employ great care in uttering the “C” word.
In 2010, Shi Hyun Ahn and Il Mi Chung signed incorrect scorecards after inadvertently hitting the other’s ball on 18. According to a caddie who threatened them with blowing the whistle, they knew about it, and spoke secretly in Korean to cover it up. People went ballistic on Korean golfers, allegedly performing under strong parental pressures, and another caddie (who was not present) spoke of fathers with extra balls in the pocket and good foot wedges, motherly advice between shots and general meetings between the commissioner and all Korean participants. Whoa! He’d better know what he’s talking about – that’s slander if he doesn’t.
Vijay Singh still carries the scars of ’85, when he was DQd from a tournament in Indonesia for upgrading his scorecard one stroke, the very thing he needed in order to make the cut. The officials decided that these were no mere allegations, and made it official that he had cheated. After a two-year retreat as a club pro, he circuitously wove his way back into the tour.
Colin Montgomerie was accused of replacing a ball in an advantageous spot after a weather delay, but it was colleague Sandy Lyle who leveled the word “cheater” at him. Generally unlikeable among tour players, Montgomerie eked his way into the Hall of Fame with 51% of the vote, but never overthrew the “cheater” moniker.
Scott McCarron was so outraged at Phil Mickelson using a deeply grooved putter, that he used the word “cheater” liberally for anyone using the club, which at the time was legal, and has remained so after legal proceedings.
Young Kim whiffed a tap-in, and claimed that it was a practice stroke (above the ball?) After being pressured to admit it, she returned to the scoring tent to amend her card – too late, DQd and labeled “cheater.”
In 1957, Jackie Pung lost the U.S. Women’s Open by signing an incorrect card, and Natalie Gulbis, according to one blogger (who wasn’t there, either), “had a major reputation as a cheat when she was a high school athlete.” So much for due process – you don’t get your day in court, and you still carry the stain decades later.
Michelle Wie has had two run-ins with the golfing law. She was DQd from her very first pro tournament, and most people seemed ok with “I didn’t understand the rule.” But, in 2010, she grounded a club in a hazard with one foot in the water, and claimed she did it to prevent herself from falling. – 2 stroke penalty, and suspicion. According to another blogger – “She was only invoking Tiger rule 36 – I’m bigger than the tour, so don’t go calling me.” – pretty harsh, I think.
Now, Brandel Chamblee, former player, has used that word for Tiger after his controversial drop at Augusta’s 15th, and Mark Steinberg isn’t going to take it. That’s money and reputation we’re talking about – such as it is.
I personally don’t think Tiger is dumb enough to seek unfair advantage in this age with a course full of cameras trained on him and i-phones capturing every glorious moment. The number one in the world doesn’t need to cheat if he’s out of the running anyway, and I have no accusation to level at Woods, other than his pathetically bad manners, expressed in a hundred ways over time.
I didn’t personally witness most of these anecdotal controversies, and anyone else who didn’t isn’t within bounds to use the word, especially if it’s in any way debatable. So, until I know better, all are absolved – to view it any other way would be…cheating.