The highest standard for Woods are his words

Tiger Woods looks on during the pro-am for the 2011 Omega Dubai Desert Classic at the Emirates Golf Club on February 9, 2011.

Tiger Woods looks on during the pro-am for the 2011 Omega Dubai Desert Classic at the Emirates Golf Club on February 9, 2011.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It’s hard enough for Tiger Woods to live up to the standards he set with a golf club in his hand.

It’s proving even tougher to live up to his own words.

Saturday marks the one-year anniversary of his speech at Sawgrass, his first public comments since Woods was exposed for cheating on his wife. What seems to be getting a lot of attention now are 15 words from that 13½-minute statement.

“When I do return, I need to make my behavior more respectful of the game.”

His behavior was lacking in Dubai.

A British television commentator certainly thought so when he saw Woods, who was making a mess of the 12th hole in the final round, squat to read a putt and then turn his head to the side and spit on the green.

“You look at his work ethic and he’s a credit to the game, an inspiration to all of those who are trying to become professional golfers,” said Ewen Murray of Sky Sports. “But some parts of him are just arrogant and petulant. Somebody now has to come onto this green behind him and maybe putt over his spit. It doesn’t get much lower than that.”

Actually, it does get slightly lower when it comes to expectorations.

Imagine being in the group behind Sergio Garcia when he bent over and dropped a loogie into the cup after missing a short putt on the 13th hole at Doral in 2007.

Video of Woods spitting already was going viral on the internet Monday when the European Tour said he will be fined an undisclosed sum for breaching the tour code of conduct.

This was not his first fine.

This was not the first time he’s spit.

And this was not the first time, certainly not lately, that Woods had a chance to win a tournament only to blow up in the final round.

From the time Woods returned to golf last year at the Masters, there was a feeling in some quarters that when – or if – he got back to winning tournaments, all would be forgotten, if not forgiven.

That remains to be seen.

Woods now has gone 15 months and 17 tournaments without winning. He doesn’t appear to be particularly close, either. In his last three tournaments – two of them with a chance to win – Woods has closed with rounds of 73, 73 and 75. It’s the first time since 1997 that he was over par in the final round of three straight tournaments.

With his game in disarray, that puts even more scrutiny on his behavior.

Woods has been spitting as long as he has been wearing a red shirt on Sunday, usually after a bad shot or a missed putt. And while it’s true that Steve Marino was spitting at Pebble Beach in the final round, Steve Marino is not Tiger Woods. It might be a double standard, but such is the cost of celebrity.

Woods is known to slam his clubs after a poor shot, and one time his driver bounced into the gallery in Australia. Swearing is second nature. There have been times when he yelled out “Fore!” to keep him from shouting another word that starts with the same letter.

That probably will never change.

And that’s the problem. Because he said it would.

“When I do return, I need to make my behavior more respectful of the game.”

For all the outrage expressed by the British media, it was peculiar that no one asked him about the famous glob after his round Sunday. Woods apologized a day later on Twitter: “The Euro Tour is right – it was inconsiderate to spit like that and I know better. Just wasn’t thinking and want to say I’m sorry.”

The British golf media used to refer to Woods as “the great man” when he was racking up majors. It was easier to overlook his behavior when he flashed that smile while posing with a trophy. Now, he is vulnerable to criticism as never before.

There was Augusta National chairman Billy Payne and his scathing criticism of Woods on the day before last year’s Masters.

“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,” Payne said.

The day after the Masters, CBS Sports announcer Jim Nantz went on a New York radio show and torched Woods for his language.

“Tiger’s not the only guy who’s got a camera in his face all day long,” Nantz said. “But he is the only one in the field who said he wasn’t going to do that any more.”

During his press conference at that Masters, Woods said he would try to curtail his temper on the golf course, but warned that also would mean toning down his celebrations. Then again, there hasn’t been a lot to celebrate lately.

Even so, did anyone really think he would change?

Whatever flaws he had as a person were easier to overlook when his golf occupied so much of the conversation. Woods is not the only player known for his emotional outbursts, nor is he the only player who spits.

No other player is under such scrutiny, though. Woods ought to know this and expect this by now. If he says he is going to change and be respectful, he has to know that people will be paying attention.

For Woods, that might be a lone positive to take out of this. At least people are still interested in watching him.

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