Golfweek Continues to Get Flak over Cover

Many consider Golfweek's recent cover photo of a noose depicting the suspension of Golf Channel's Kelly Tilghman stretched the bounds of honest journalism, not to mention good taste. The accompanying "Caught in a Noose" heading - with the subhead: "Tilghman slips up, and Golf Channel can't wiggle free" - has certainly got the attention of readers and golf's powers-that-be, including PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, who said the imagery was "outrageous and irresponsible."

In a statement released by the PGA Tour, Finchem wrote: "It smacks of tabloid journalism. It was a naked attempt to inflame and keep alive an incident that was heading to an appropriate conclusion."

From the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Fla., Golfweek editor Dave Seanor told AP's Doug Ferguson: "We knew that image would grab attention, but I didn't anticipate the enormity of it. There's been a huge, negative reaction. I've gotten so many emails. It's a little overwhelming."

Tilghman was suspended for two weeks after using the word "lynch" in an on-air discussion during the Mercedes-Benz Championship over how Tour players might beat Tiger Woods, the world's No. 1-ranked player. The word came up as she and co-anchor Nick Faldo were talking about the young challengers to Woods.

Faldo suggested that "to take Tiger on, maybe they should just gang up (on him) for a while." Tilghman replied, "Lynch him in a back alley."

That one word set off a firestorm. Rev. Al Sharpton demanded that Tilghman be fired, and others were appalled at the racially inflammatory overtones. Tilghman later apologized directly to Woods, whose agent issued a statement that said it was a non-issue. The Golf Channel responded to the uproar by suspending Tilghman, golf's first-ever female on-air anchor, for two weeks. She was absent from the booth during last week's Sony Open and is gone again for the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic now underway in Palm Springs.

Seanor has been jolted by comments from readers over the cover, telling Ferguson he expected canceled subscriptions over the issue. He wasn't sure if there would be any fallout with advertisers.

"I wish we could have come up with something that made the same statement but didn't create as much negative reaction," he told Ferguson. "But as this has unfolded, I'm glad there's dialogue. Let's talk about this, and the lack of diversity in golf."

As for the Finchem's statement, Seanor said: "I was a little shocked by the commissioner's reaction. It was rather strong, particularly from someone who rarely comments on things on his own tour."

Coincidentally, Golf World, the only other weekly magazine devoted strictly to golf, had Bill Spiller on this week's cover. In a lengthy story written by Al Barkow, Spiller was highlighted on the 60th anniversary of his efforts to integrate the PGA Tour.