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Phil Mickelson watches the flight of his shot from the 17th fairway during the third round of The Masters at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, Saturday, April 7, 2012. (Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer/MCT)
Sunday, April 8, 2012

Fans not thrilled by Woods’ tantrum

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Tiger Woods’ latest temper tantrum did not go over well with some fans at the Masters.

Woods caused a scene with his boorish behavior at buttoned-down Augusta National on Friday, scowling, cursing, tossing clubs. He even went so far as to give one a swift kick after his shot on the 16th tee landed in the bunker.

“It’s not what you want to see,” said Charles Hatcher III, who was at the course on Saturday with his 11-year-old son, Charles IV, and his father, Charles Sr. “Golf is a gentleman’s game, and you should treat it as such.”

Especially at Augusta.

The home of the Masters oozes decorum. Members wear their green jackets no matter how high the temperatures climb; there are no garish video boards or corporate logos to take away from the simple beauty of the shrubs and the Georgia pines. “Patrons” know their golf and their history, and show a proper appreciation for both.

“I’m not making excuses, trust me. What he’s been through – largely brought on by himself – and not playing up to expectations, and the expectations he puts on himself, it’s hard sometimes to keep your emotions in check,” said two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange, working as a broadcaster at the Masters. “With that said, you have to be somewhat aware of the stage you’re on.

“This isn’t Bay Hill or even some other tournament event,” Strange said. “This is the Masters.”

Expectations that Woods would win a fifth green jacket skyrocketed two weeks ago when he won at Bay Hill – his first PGA Tour victory in 30 months. But his chances began imploding with a flurry of wayward tee shots, blocked approaches and missed putts from close range.

As his game melted down, so did he. He cursed the bad shots or took mock swings in anger – sometimes doing both. He hung his head or looked skyward with exasperation after the missed putts. He flipped clubs and, after that poor tee shot on 16, booted his 9-iron about 15 yards.

Diego Maradona would have been proud. Ben Hogan, not so much.

“Am I conscious of it? No,” Woods said after Saturday’s round, in which he limited himself to glares and one angry toss. “Certainly I’m frustrated at times. I apologize if I offend anybody by that. But I’ve hit some bad shots. It’s certainly frustrating at times not to hit the ball where you need to hit it.”

This was hardly the first glimpse of Woods’ temper. It’s easy to gauge his level of frustration at any tournament by reading his lips after a bad shot or two. Last year at Augusta National he cursed so much CBS would have been justified if it had used a “parental discretion is advised” disclaimer.

Fans, however, expected to behold a new, improved Woods when he returned from the sex scandal that cost him his marriage and nearly two years of a magnificent career, promising to respect the game and the fans who pay dearly to watch him play.

“You couldn’t even think of Jack (Nicklaus) doing something like this,” Jon Hayden said. “It’s egregious.”

Hatcher said he still recalls hearing Arnold Palmer tell the story of losing his temper during a tournament early in his career, and his father being so horrified he threatened to never let his son play again.

Now 47, Hatcher was 15 when he heard Palmer speak.

“Feet of clay,” Hatcher’s father said. “We all have them.”

A person close to Augusta National operations said no one from the tournament had talked to Woods about his behavior in the second round, but Woods is subject to discipline by the PGA Tour.

Tour policy states stating that players can be disciplined for conduct unbecoming a professional even at tournaments that are co-sponsored or approved by the PGA Tour, such as the major championships. The tour doesn’t comment on discipline, however, so whether he’s fined might never be known.

“I certainly heard that people didn’t like me kicking the club,” Woods said. “But I didn’t like it, either. I hit it right in the bunker. Didn’t feel good on my toe, either.”

Even if fans disapprove of his antics, they still like Woods.

Hayden’s family had tickets from the early 1950s, and his father used to make him memorize the pairings as they made the drive – on local roads, there was no interstate then – to the Masters. He said he was “shocked” as he watched Woods on television Friday.

“But yet,” his friend Allen O’Reilly said, “we’re following him.”

Indeed, Woods’ gallery Saturday morning was, by far, the biggest on the course. Fans lined up 2 and 3 deep just to catch a glimpse of him. Every good shot prompted cheers of, “Good job, Tiger!” or “Go get ‘em, Tiger!” and even his bad shots drew supportive groans.

After an even-par 72, he is 3 over for the tournament.

“Coming back here after winning Bay Hill, when he lost his shot, he lost his temper a couple of times because he’s such a competitor,” Dan Higginson said. “I didn’t like to see him kick that club, but he’s such a huge competitor it drove him nuts.”