These days, the observation that sports writers and pundits seem especially eager to make waves from time to time with controversial statements or positions is hardly revolutionary. But in general, golf has been immune to those sensationalist stories that, many people agree, have far more shock value than thoughtful substance.

On Tuesday, though, former PGA Tour player-turned golf pundit Brandel Chamblee changed all that, submitting a story to GOLF Magazine’s Golf.com that gives academic-style grades to a number of top professional golfers for the past PGA Tour season. Naturally, all of 2013’s major champions received grades of A or A+—or, in Jason Dufner’s case, an emphatic “A++” for not only his PGA Championship victory but his particularly attractive wife, Amanda. Nothing too controversial there.

With respect to top-ranked Tiger Woods, however, Chamblee went in a different direction. Instead of praising Woods’ five Tour wins this year, the winner of the 1998 Greater Vancouver Open focused on Woods’ three high-profile brushes with the Rules of Golf during the season: his improper (and quirkily non-disqualifying) drop at the Masters, another much-discussed drop at the PLAYERS Championship and a penalty he incurred when his ball moved while he removed a loose impediment at the BMW Championship. Chamblee gives Woods a grade of “F” because he, “how shall we say this…was a little cavalier with the rules.”

884etiger-woods-drop-15th-hole

Above: Woods’ improper drop on the 15th hole in the second round of the Masters was one of the biggest golf stories of 2013.

Chamblee does a bit of semantic gymnastics here, but there is little doubt what he is getting at: Tiger Woods is—or, at least in 2013, has been—a cheater on the golf course.

The former standout University of Texas golfer has long been critical of many aspects of Woods’ career and life, from his changes in coaches to dressing Woods down in the wake of his 2009 personal scandal. But accusing one of the best players to ever pick up a golf club is an altogether different form of criticism. It may even be slander, if Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg’s comments Friday are to be taken seriously.

“I’m not one for hyperbole, but this is absolutely disgusting,” Steinberg said. “Calling him a cheater? I’ll be shocked, stunned if something is not done about this. Something has to be done.”

Mirroring Chamblee’s indirect articulation of his own opinion, the “something” Steinberg refers to is obviously legal action.

This is a level of media drama to which the golf is largely unaccustomed. Granted, Johnny Miller has said some silly things about other players (Craig Parry, anyone?), but is not remotely in Chamblee’s league after Tuesday’s article.

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Other sports, though, have their fair share of media personalities, never to be confused with journalists , who are prone to overstatement that prompts a tornado of negative reaction. The best current example of this phenomenon is Skip Bayless, a former major newspaper sports columnist and current professional sports talking head for ESPN. After more than three decades as a print journalist, Bayless transitioned full-time to television work in 2007. He has scarcely looked back.

chamblee

From an unsubstantiated allegation about Troy Aikman’s sexuality in a 1989 book to his current, seemingly unending and increasingly absurd defense of the greatness of Tim Tebow, Bayless is unafraid of making statements that seem less concerned with deep analysis than emotion and pot-stirring potential. And like Chamblee, Bayless has also been threatened, albeit indirectly, with legal action over comments he has made. In 2012, Bayless opined on New York Yankees great Derek Jeter injury-plagued season in a way that juxtaposed the specter of steroid use with the superstar shortstop. Jeter’s response contained similar allusions to potential legal action.

Does this episode mark a stepping-stone on golf’s journey toward more widespread relevance in the sports world? Does this constitute a partial removal of golf’s proper-to-a-fault stereotype? Will someone step up and become a Stephen A. Smith to Brandel Chamblee’s Skip Bayless?

In any case, there is little doubt what grade Chamblee will receive on his next Bayless Academy report card.

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Related articles: Chamblee sticks to his ‘F’ for Tiger, then apologizes

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Tim grew up outside of Hartford, Conn., playing most of his formative golf at Hop Meadow Country Club in the town of Simsbury. He played golf for four years at Washington & Lee University (Division-III) and now lives in Pawleys Island, S.C., and works in nearby Myrtle Beach in advertising. He's not too bad on Bermuda greens, for a Yankee. A lifelong golf addict, he cares about all facets of the game of golf, from equipment to course architecture to PGA Tour news to his own streaky short game.

138 COMMENTS

  1. Hmm does anyone know what it’s like to be a golf legend? How about a golf legend with today’s nosy media coverage and how many people on the planet have access to watch golf on TV. Tiger’s still the best whether you hate him or love him.

  2. Really!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Lift clean and place should be called lift clean and cheat.
    Lets face it its all about the $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$!
    After playing golf for 50 years I no longer have passion for a game
    ruined by fame and money. It hurts to make a comment like this
    about a once great game.

    • I agree, it’s all about the money. and like you I’ve been playing for about 50 years (my first ball was the “Club Special”). Anyway, I must disagree about “a once great game”. It’s still a great game. When the $$$$ realizes it will rid itself of the Brandel Chamblees. If not, it could end up like the NBA, a great game I haven’t watched for 25 years

  3. Obviously lots of people on here are tv watchers and are caught up more in the awe of tiger woods the media created to promote golf(which it did 10 fold as the paychecks and ratings now prove), than I’m preserving the integrity of the game which arnold palmer and 99% of the players today still hold to as being the essence of what golf is. Watch the commercials of all the kids and what they kearn through golf and then say bc is wrong with his f grade. Did they learn to win at all costs? Never call a penalty on yourself when you’re the #1golfer in the world and you don’t know if you’ve dropped in the wrong spot,took an illegal drop, don’t know the difference in a ball moving or oscillating? Really tiger? Tigers name should be cheetah bcthats what he’s proving he is in every form of the word in golf and in life. Once he was assessed a penalty in the masters he signed an incorrect scorecard which is automatic dq, but he’s always been and always will be a win at all costs person and his integrity is a joke,right down to lying about what ball he’s used since the first nike he hit. Its not a shame bc has said the truth about tiger but its a shame more people in power and with a voice louder than mine isn’t demanding tiger be accountable for his deceipts and lack of integrity before he is the arod or barry bonds of golf…cheaters are cheaters no matter the tools used, break rules and you pay,unless you have a million uneducated fans supporting you and making escuses bc they cant break 100 much less know how and where to take a drop,congrats to the ones who do anddont overlook the ones like tiger who are too selfcentered and cheap to honor the code…hope#15 never comes

    • Clearly a Tiger hater then?
      I’m not in awe of Tiger. I love watching him play golf but that doesn’t mean I’m not ignorant of his public perception and the things he does that doesn’t help his cause.
      However, the very definition of cheating is to gain an advantage. At Abu Dhabi, Tiger consulted Martin Kaymer, his playing partner, over the drop and Kaymer agreed with Woods so where is the cheating with that. At Sawgrass Tiger consulted with Casey Wittenberg, his playing partner and Wittenberg was happy with the drop so where is the cheating?
      At the Masters Woods clearly took a wrong drop but he also had a referee with the group who didn’t see anything wrong. Tiger was also in contention and when his ball went into the water in the manner it did I don’t think there would have been too many pros thinking clearly. With regards to the DQ it was the decision of the Masters committee not Woods and their decision to only penalise him two shots was agreed with by the R&A.
      The ball moving at the Barclays needed a high definition camera to notice so Woods could certainly be right when he says it didn’t move. My own eyes are rubbish and not as clear as a high def camera.
      Woods needs to realise that, with so many people watching his every move, he needs to be whiter than white but that is far removed from him being a cheat!

  4. I literally can not stand Brandel Chamblee and i think golf channel should part ways with him and his brand of analysis. Did care for him even before the current situation.
    Skip bayless is a whole other hatred of mine!

    • Totally agree. Quote from articla above; (Does this episode mark a stepping-stone on golf’s journey toward more widespread relevance in the sports world? Does this constitute a partial removal of golf’s proper-to-a-fault stereotype? Will someone step up and become a Stephen A. Smith to Brandel Chamblee’s Skip Bayless?)

      No place in golf for the kind of commentary Chamblee brings to the table. If this is where NBC (I know the article was written for Golf.com) wants to take the Golf Channel (GC has allowed similar commentary before) then I will have to seriously have to get my golf news elsewere.

    • Chamblee is one of the few not afraid to call a spade a spade while others just try to sugarcoating and be politically correct. Go Chamblee!

  5. Tiger’s remark about dropping two yards further back was more about hubris than proof of any sort of cheating. At the end of the day who wants to hit from two yards further back and implying he was tempting fate if he hit another perfect shot that hit the flagstick was more arrogance on Tiger’s part reflecting how repeatable his short game is in his mind rather than real cheating conferring him an advantage over the field. The ball moved versus the ball oscillating was another example of Tiger’s “cheating” giving him no real advantage. The only situation where Tiger gained any advantage was his drop at the Player’s and the person who said the most about that was Miller and not Chamblee. If Tiger really wants to air out the cheater charges he should go after Miller and not Chamblee, after all Chamblee is a journeyman with 5 times fewer wins in his career than Woods has wins just in the past year. Chamblee has often been criticized for going after Tiger and saying the sky is falling every time Tiger doesn’t win the next major while Miller has a real voice of authority on this issue.

    • “no advantage” ? How about the advantage of choosing not to call a penalty on yourself like the other 98% of the pros on tour would have done ?

  6. Tiger gained absolutely no advantage by that ball “moving?” It make no difference of the stage have you ever infringed on a rule, if you say no then you can’t say you haven’t lied. That little incident should never have been brought to light, happens all the time!!!

    • The rule doesn’t imply you should have gained advantage – it clearly says if you caused it to move, it is penalty. Period.

  7. Difficult as it may be to believe there are still a couple people in the game of golf bigger than Mr. Woods. One of those is a true gentleman by the name of Arnold Palmer. The GC Morning Drive Show does NOT broadcast from the AP studio by pure happenstance. It just so happens that even though the GC is now part of NBC it was started, and still largely controlled, by Mr. Palmer. Even Tiger Woods, and his team of “legal eagles” has to have enough sense not to sue over this trivial matter. Even if they won in a court of law they most certainly would lose in the court of public opinion. BTW, how many times has Tiger won at Bay Hill? Should a legal battle ensue it might be a very long time until he gets another invite from “The King” regardless of his World Ranking.

    • Sorry to bust your bubble, but it is 2013 and there is no one bigger in the game than Tiger, like it or not. I could name quite a few guys I root for over Tiger, but don’t kid yourself, Tigers status spreads way past the game of golf in a way that Mr. Palmers does not. Whatever Tiger did or didn’t do is irrelevant to that fact.
      As far as an “invite” from the “The King”… Arnold Palmers name may be on all the signs, but Tiger Woods owns Bay Hill.
      As far as Brandel Chamblee.. instead of making accusations on T.V why don’t you take Tiger aside in a private room and call him a liar and a cheat to his face and see what happens.

    • One thing I like about Tiger is his refusal to get down in the gutter with those, including BC, who rag on him.

      It’s unclear to me why BC is fixated on Tiger, but it is clear to me that he is not at all contrite, notwithstanding his ‘apology’.

      To me, BC is the epitome of the wanna-be athlete sports writer who is envious of the super star athlete, in terms of their skill and their wealth, especially if the athlete represents ‘the other’, whether via race or class.

      Even the illustrious Ben Hogan, former caddy coming from the poor working class, suffered at the hands of envious, wanna-be scribes and pundits. So, it comes with the territory.

      To his credit Tiger refuses to let it preoccupy him and keeps his eye on the prize, as Hogan learned to do later in his career.

      • Tiger refuses to get down in the gutter with those who rag on him??? Are you kidding us, he jumped in the filth with both feet when he calls for the golf channel to fire BC. (OK not outright but as clear as BC called TW a cheater, 100% implied!) Its such a low class move that he doesn’t even go after the media source that BC wrote the piece for, he went for more, GC has nothing to do with Golf.com.
        Not saying what BC did was right or wrong but the antics of TW and manager are not taking the high road, its a desperate effort to take a bigger swing.
        Think its time for TW to realize he will get more criticism than other players, but to call for his firing is a childish at ending the fight by taking a bigger swing.
        The greats typically show great class on the course as well, time to take control of his emotions and start acting more like a champion. We never saw Hogan, Palmer, or Nicklaus stoop to this level on or off the course.

  8. ALl the Woods-luvin’ sycophants out there need to get clued in, this group thinks all is well with everything Tiger no matter what he does. Is he a cheater? Well, let’s not forget the personal foibles that generally come under the heading of “cheater” but I offer this – Woods has no moral compass, zero, zilch, nada, bupkis, NONE. He is a complete low-life both personally and professionally and in fact, foret the 3 hour meetintg that was had, if the commissioner had a single hair on his sack he would have suspended Woods for a short but significant period of time or tournaments. There si not a single other player that would have gotten away with this without at least having to attend a rules seminar. On a related note – why are the other players on TOUR not screaming long and hard about this? – here’s why – it’s because of Woods that you can play for top 25 $$$ every week, work 25 weeks a year and still keep your card and make a good living all without ever winning jack. In this regards, the rest of the tour are flaming enablers, especially the established players with nothing more to prove, are as culpable in this travesty as Woods himself.

  9. Tiger flat out cheated at the masters this year and admitted it in the press conference. He should have disqualified himself or the masters should have disqualified him. This has been going on a long time, anyone remember the Phoenix open boulder/loose impediment incident where 3 guys from the gallery moved a huge boulder and he got away with it. He cheated on his wife and almost got away with it. he has always got away with it, and this is the problem. Chamblee is a moron but he is right on this one.

    • Surely the point of cheating is to do something wrong with the intention of getting away with it. If he cheated at the Masters then why was he open and honest enough in his post round interview to actually state that he took the ball back a bit. Bearing in mind each group has an official with them and nothing was thought of it during play then if, as you state, he cheated then he’s not going to be stupid enough to bring it to other people’s attention thus facing potential disqualification. As for disqualifying himself are you serious, do you really believe that any other pro in Tiger’s situation would DQ themselves. Nick Faldo said he should have DQ’d himself but Faldo himself was party to a situation years back against Sandy Lyle where his approach shot to a green went through the green and was kicked back towards the green by a fan. He should have replaced the ball where it originally rested but chose not to (which was in the Rules) and took the more favourable position. Pot and kettle spring to mind.
      Moving the boulder was within the Rules so he didn’t do anything wrong. It may have been against the values of the game relying on outside help but it wasn’t against the Rules and he didn’t get away with anything.
      With regards to his other Rules infractions, he didn’t get away with anything either. His penalty at Abu Dhabi led him to miss the cut, his drop at the Masters almost certainly took him out of contention for the tournament (mentally more than anything) and his “oscillation” at the Barclays also cost him a two shot penalty.
      Cheating on his wife has got nothing to do with his golf. Do you seriously think that Tiger is the only pro golfer who has cheated on his wife given the lifestyles they lead. So by your logic perhaps we need to start following any golfer known to have cheated on their wives to make sure they are taking correct drops!
      I can clearly understand why Tiger polarises opinion. He likes to do things his way and doesn’t suffer people when it suits and there is no question he has major PR issues when it comes to people’s opinion of him.

      • Outstanding thoughts… Makes perfect sense, and I like that it has nothing to do with racism, bigotry or whether Brandel is trying to personally destroy Tiger. Just logical thinking…

        • Back to the original comment, I would think a player would only cheat to gain an advantage. So what tiger didn’t drop the ball exactly where he was suppose to. The only question we should ask is did he gain anything by dropping the ball where he did. This coincides with the penalty for the ball movement. If the ball moved 1/8 of an inch and he didn’t improve his shot, then what’s the big deal?

      • Well he has done “something wrong with the intention of getting away with it.”

        I would have loved to hear him say, oops, yes I moved back a yard on my drop, I recognize it was in violation of the rules and I accept the 2 stroke penalty…. and then go on and win the tournament.

        As it was no one took him out of contention except for himself. Especially mentally, had he admitted error and learned something from it, he would have been able to move on guilt free, but obviously it festered!

  10. Chamblee has, in effect, called one of the Tour’s most respected caddies, Joe LaCava, as well as Casey Wittenberg and his caddy cheaters as well. I guess some collateral damage is okay; anything to get Tiger. What a “gentlemen’s game” we play.

  11. Funny, I saw Balboa on cable this past weekend, and Bayless says Rocky was an over-rated boxer. Bayless and Chamblee have become their own celebrity personalities and they would not be there without fans (which is derived from the word fanatic).

  12. Typically someone who is callous with his personal life, has adultery issues, may lie frequently or play loose with his friends does not have many friends, not unless they are into the same act, which I suspect Tiger has many who do. Character and integrity are something people used to strive for, now it’s like, what’s wrong with you bro, can’t bend the rules or let something go or tell the wife/girlfriend you are doing something else. I know Tiger early on hung around with some questionable types, NBA, MLB types and possibly they had a negative effect on him. I can see some famous guy telling Tiger, you are the man, getting some on the side is expected. You don’t owe Ellen anything. If you can cheat at life, I expect you can cheat at the rules of golf. In a friendly round someone right in front of everyone does something illegal, we know it was not purposeful and many times the rules are explained, they redrop, no harm no foul but cheating on purpose is negative energy period and if others know you do it eventually you won’t have any golfing partners. We has a guy just quit our club because he could not be trusted. In a money game with your buddies it is imperative you play by the rules. It is expected and those are the guys you look up to usually. Tiger, I believe never cheated on purpose. Chamblee might end up sucking hind teat on this one I expect. He knows he has cameras and people watching and at the Masters and Players he certainly did not do that purposely. Most people don’t know all the rules and when you have 90 Frank Hannigans at your beckoning call who will study the rules.