Old Tom's Kin Scolds Tiger

By: Joel Zuckerman

When he made his case against Tiger Woods to me a few months ago, I found his cautiousness to be overwrought, bordering on paranoia. But as the events of the last several days have played out, as the world's best golfer and most highly compensated endorser moves regrettably from the sports and business pages to the supermarket tabloids and the main monologs of late-night talk show hosts, it's interesting to take the words of my favorite English curmudgeon into a new light.

Here's the main thing to know about Englishman Melvyn Morrow: he is the great-great-grandson of one of golf's most important historical figures. His father's mother was the daughter of the daughter of Old Tom Morris, the famed four-time British Open champion, course designer and club-maker.

When he was telling me via email that he thought Tiger's on-course behavior was veering from unacceptable to downright dangerous, I laughed off his prudence.

"Let me make it abundantly clear that I do not believe the behavior as demonstrated by Tiger's temper tantrums is acceptable. Be it by Tiger or any other golfer, it is not correct on a golf course." So begins Melvyn, who might want to submit his head-and-shoulders portrait to Webster's Dictionary to illustrate the word "opinionated."

Melvyn has a chronic back problem that prohibits him from walking for more than a few hundred yards before the pain makes him double over. It keeps him off the golf course, as he doesn't consider riding in carts an acceptable part of the game.

But if his lumbar was as strong as his opinions he'd be walking and carrying his bag 54 holes a day. "Hero-worship is one thing, but allowing these individuals to get away with these temper tantrums while on our courses, in my opinion, is just not acceptable. Would you tolerate your child to behave like this? If the answer is No, then why do you find it acceptable that a professional can do it on camera?

"It's very simple: one must think that Tiger's on-course temper tantrums are either right or wrong. There is no middle ground. The excuses that he is tired, he is overworked, the pressure he is under, etc., cuts no water. He is a professional golfer. It's his work, if he feels the need to continue to play golf for money. Professionals are meant to be the elite of our game and so should be fitter, and in more control that the rest of us.

"Each of you decides which level of common decency is acceptable to you and your family. I know mine and both my wife and I are of the opinion that Tiger has crossed it."

Fifty-something Melvyn has never had the occasion to visit the USA, and consequently might not fully realize what a nation of risk-takers we are, what with our highway driving, cell-phone usage, constant reliance on text messaging, fascination with stock-car racing and football, dedication to heart-clogging fast-food joints, and over-dependence on alcohol.

He brought up what at the time seemed like a dubious safety issue that I would wager not one in a million American golf fans would ever even consider: "Thank God, to date no one has been injured by one of Tiger's clubs flying through the air. But what do you think the damage could be if it hit an adult, let alone a child? Would you put your child in potential harm's way?"

When he made these comments to me I laughed them off, but this was well before Tiger made news for pounding his driver into the ground in Australia a few weeks ago, the club then rebounding and sailing into the gallery. Of course, that little glitch was but a matchbook on a football field in comparison to the Thanksgiving Night tempest, which has yielded far more questions than answers.

Says Melvyn: "Tiger Woods is again seen to be in the wars, this time his private life is being opened out and examined by all, including his friends and enemies. The problem is that once you become a celebrity you are on full view by your public and others. The fact that you have become a celebrity generally means that you have taken the people's money so you have become public property. Then there is no such thing as a private life.

"You cannot have it both ways, although many feel they should have that right, yet you signed that away for the great financial rewards you are receiving via the public in return. After all, was it not your choice, your signature on those endorsement contracts? Like it or not, you have become public property in nearly the true sense of the word.

"Regarding his current problems, I personally would prefer not to comment on his private life with his family," concludes Melvyn, who hopes to return to playing the game he loves someday.

"However I will say this, if Tiger wishes this all to go away he should face the music and come clean, speak to the police to resolve the problem he alone seems to have created. He is obviously a gifted player and I believe a decent individual, yet I have noticed a progressive decline in his self-control on the golf course over the last year or so. Is this spilling over into his private life? Does he now believe his own legend encouraged by his team (yet apparently kept under control by his wise but late father)?

"The problem is that none of us are above the law, we must answer for our actions, more so Tiger, who is a role model to many."

Joel Zuckerman, called "One of the Southeast's most respected and sought-after golf writers" by Golfer's Guide Magazine, is an award-winning travel writer based in Savannah, Ga., and Park City, Utah. He has written five books, including the epic "Pete Dye Golf Courses" in 2008. Joel's course reviews, player profiles, essays and features have appeared in more that 100 publications internationally, including Sports Illustrated, Golf, Continental Magazine, Travel & Leisure Golf, Sky Magazine, Golf Connoisseur, Golfweek, Estates West, Millionaire and Golf International. For more of Joel, visit www.vagabondgolfer.com.