Elkington stumbles into another social-media mess

Steve Elkington is under fire for recent comments he made on Twitter about NFL prospect Michael Sam, who recently revealed that he is gay.

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Jeff Rude’s “Hate To Be Rude” column appears on Golfweek.com on Wednesday.

That smoke you smell is the firestorm that Champions Tour player Steve Elkington created Tuesday with a Twitter post about Michael Sam, the NFL prospect who disclosed his homosexuality two weeks ago. Elkington first called ESPN’s coverage of Sam embarrassing, later saying that he’s for Sam but against the network telling viewers that Sam is gay.

Between those posts, Elkington tweeted this unfortunate grenade: “ESPN reporting Michael Sam is leading the handbag throw at NFL combine ... No one else expected to throw today."

Not surprisingly, the Australian has taken a beating on social media after the latest of his controversial tweets. As for my take, I have two thoughts:

  • 1. ESPN is reporting that Elkington should win the Twitter Account Throwing Contest by throwing his away.
  • 2. ESPN is reporting that Michael Sam is leading the Pro Golfer Throw at the NFL Combine, having heaved Steve Elkington 100 yards before spiking him in the end zone.

• OK, three thoughts. People in social media apparently are learning what veteran journalists have known for decades: The send button is the most important key on the board. Don’t hit the thing unless you are prepared to be responsible for the consequences of your words/actions.

• This week’s Honda Classic feels big, what with seven of the world’s top 10 in the field, including three Q-rated no-shows (Tiger Woods, Adam Scott and Phil Mickelson) from last week’s WGC-Accenture Match Play.

Woods on Thursday will play his fourth PGA Tour round of the year. That means he’s rested if not rusty. So let’s all welcome him back from semi-retirement.

• Here’s a deeper look at Arizona bees, the insects central to Sergio Garcia’s curious concession at last week’s Match Play. As you may recall, the swarm of bees around Garcia’s ball at the WGC-Accenture Match Play led to a lengthy wait for a drop and to, on the next hole, a bizarre and generous concession of an 18-footer to Rickie Fowler out of what Garcia called guilt.

Well, the bee situation might have been more serious than even Garcia thought. Jack Berry, retired Detroit journalist and former Golf Writers Association of America president, wrote me with this interesting information from the perspective of someone who has resided part-time in Tucson for five years:

“If you've been there for any time, you know bees are bad, verrry bad. Africanized Honey Bees are known as killer bees. In the time I was there, there were three or four cases of people being attacked by swarms and one guy was killed. I don't blame Sergio for being wary.”

While I applauded Garcia’s sportsmanship when 2 up in the desert, I’m not buying his subsequent assertion that he would have given Fowler the putt in the Ryder Cup. Here’s figuring the spirit of Seve Ballesteros would talk him out of it.

• Tour driving ranges, of course, are full of players who have changed swing coaches at least once. Sometimes the switch works, sometimes it doesn’t. Student and instructor alike need to be careful.

That in mind, Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a former Tour veteran, lobbed this pearl my way the other day:

“You can go to another teacher with another philosophy and lose what made you great and lose your way back to the starting point. That’s why I love (Pete) Cowen because he doesn’t change nuance thinking it’s a flaw. With some players, things change and you’ve forgotten who you are and (instructors) have coached the arrogance out of you.”

• The revised, 54-hole Legends of Golf will move to Missouri in June and make PGA Tour history by using a par-3 course, an idea long overdue. All professionals will play the Big Cedar Lodge’s Top of the Rock par-3 track in the final round, guaranteeing some interesting drama.

My other takeaway is that my money goes on Corey Pavin to win his second over-50 title. Pavin has ranked from first to fifth in par-3 birdies during the past three Champions Tour seasons and led the PGA Tour in par-3 performance at age 48 and was fifth at 49.

• HSBC’s global sponsorship chief says players need to “respect” the WGC-HSBC Champions over cash-grab exhibitions and “be respectful of ... these major events (which) are really at the top and the pinnacle and the lifeblood of the sport.”

While mindful of his point, the reality is there are many, many self-acclaimed important events in golf these days – from the major championships to The Players to the Ryder Cup to the WGCs, to the FedEx Cup playoffs, to the invitationals, to longstanding tournaments that have supported the Tour for decades, to European events with large guarantees.

So something has to give in that climate. And that something is participation. You can’t play them all.

• A moment of silence please for the dearly departed of late: Harold Ramis, the famous comedic genius who directed "Caddyshack" and wrote/directed other classics; and Michael Boyce, a well-respected caddie who joined the Tour in 1973 and worked 25 years for Gil Morgan.

Raised in Philadelphia, Boyce attended Penn State and according to Neil Oxman, the nationally recognized political consultant who has caddied scores of tournaments for Tom Watson, “was universally thought of as one of the best ‘real’ caddies on Tour.”

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