Masters chairman: Tiger ‘disappointed’ us

Masters chairman Billy Payne at his press conference Wednesday at Augusta National.

Masters chairman Billy Payne at his press conference Wednesday at Augusta National.

AUGUSTA, Ga. – The vast majority of “wow” moments at the Masters happen on the finely manicured golf course. Actions usually trump words here amongst the towering pines. But every now and then, the stringing of oral sentences can raise eyebrows and create headlines and divert the focus from crisply struck shots.

We experienced one of those precious moments Wednesday when Masters chairman Billy Payne took Tiger Woods to task in a firm but classy way during his annual tournament address.

Payne went out of his way to give a stern lecture on the responsibilities that come with stardom. He was the father who sat his child down at the kitchen table to admonish bad and explain proper behavior. He was the principal who called the mischievous student into the office and set him straight. He was the therapist urging improvement.

Payne’s powerful message, skillfully delivered by scalpel rather than sledgehammer, not only was brilliant, it was probably the most interesting thing I’ve observed all year.

Here it is. Widen your eyes and take a look.

“We are not unaware of the significance of this week to a very special player, Tiger Woods. A man who in a brief 13 years clearly and emphatically proclaimed and proved his game to be worthy of the likes of Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. As he ascended in our rankings of the world’s great golfers, he became an example to our kids that success is directly attributable to hard work and effort.

“But as he now says himself, he forgot in the process to remember that with fame and fortune comes responsibility, not invisibility. It is not simply the degree of his conduct that is so egregious here; it is the fact that he disappointed all of us, and more importantly, our kids and our grandkids. Our hero did not live up to the expectations of the role model we saw for our children.

“Is there a way forward? I hope yes. I think yes. But certainly his future will never again be measured only by his performance against par; but measured by the sincerity of his efforts to change. I hope he now realizes that every kid he passes on the course wants his swing, but would settle for his smile.

“I hope he can come to understand that life’s greatest rewards are reserved for those who bring joy to the lives of other people. We at Augusta hope and pray that our great champion will begin his new life here tomorrow in a positive, hopeful and constructive manner, but this time, with a significant difference from the past. This year, it will not be just for him, but for all of us, who believe in second chances.”

And now, enjoy the golf.

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