What if a Tour player said he was gay? A major champ weighs in

By Jason SobelMay 1, 2013, 2:19 pm

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – One big aftereffect of NBA player Jason Collins’ announcement on Monday that he is gay – becoming the first current athlete in a major American team sport has come out publicly – is that it’s sparked discussions as to how athletes in other sports would react to a fellow player making a similar declaration. Even in golf. Even on the PGA Tour. Even in an idling courtesy car of a major champion who felt the need to expand upon earlier statements.

There has never been an openly gay PGA Tour member, which raises the question about the potential reaction.

Upon arriving at Quail Hollow Club on Tuesday, the first player I saw was Webb Simpson – and I asked him that question. It was part of his pre-tournament interview session with the media, admittedly mixed awkwardly among questions about the state of the Quail Hollow greens, his upcoming U.S. Open title defense and playing a home game here this week.

Still, the 27-year-old pro handled the query with all the deftness of an uphill 3-foot putt.

“I hope they would respond in a respectful way,” he said. “We've got a lot of personalities out on Tour, so I know if it happened, I would hope that everyone would not do anything to make the person feel bad or to put them down. That's the way I think of our Tour. Our Tour is a place where guys know each other and see each other every week. It's different than the NBA. You've got your one small team, but the Tour is kind of like a big family.”

Maybe that was the expected response, but it was also thoughtful and sincere.

The surprising part came 15 minutes later. My cellphone buzzed and it was Simpson, who wanted to further discuss the issue. This wasn’t an instance of a player attempting to retract his comments or more clearly define his point of view. He just wanted the forum to expand on his thoughts about how such a revelation would be received on golf’s highest level.

So we ducked into his courtesy car and Simpson began expanding.

“If you asked every player, you’d have a few different responses,” he said. “I think there would be guys who just wouldn’t care one way or the other. They wouldn’t want to talk about it, wouldn’t want to go there; it’s a non-issue to them.

“I think there would be a group who would applaud it. They would see courage in them coming out and be proud of them.

“And I think you’d have another camp that would be against it. Whether it’s their beliefs or values they’ve grown up with, I think you’d have a camp that would be against it, as well.”

True to his words, when some of his peers were questioned on the same topic – not for their personal thoughts about one of their own coming out on Tour, but as part of the general consensus – few offered no comment, few declined to speculate on what is for now a hypothetical situation and others felt indifferent toward the issue.

“I don’t think it would be a problem,” Bo Van Pelt stated. “To each his own. It doesn’t really have any effect on my life, so I don’t see what the problem would be. It’s the evolution of the time that we’re in. I think we’re going to get to the point pretty soon where you don’t even have to talk about stuff like this.”

It’s been nine years since 13-time LPGA champion Rosie Jones wrote a New York Times article announcing she is gay. This was just prior to the 2004 Kraft Nabisco Championship, and Jones remembers receiving enormous amounts of support from the LPGA, its players, sponsors and fans.

She believes that such a disclosure by a male player on the highest circuit may not be afforded the same luxuries.

“It wouldn’t surprise me at all if there are a couple of gay guys on the PGA Tour,” Jones speculated. “I don’t know if there are any, but there probably are. … As far as the sexuality goes, I think it’s harder there because guys scrutinize that a lot more. I think it would be really hard.”

Even so, she thinks it wouldn’t be as difficult as the announcement Collins made earlier this week.

“I think it would probably be easier for someone to come out on the PGA Tour than a team sport,” Jones added. “You run the show. You only answer to yourself. That’s really important for something like this. You have to make yourself happy. There are a lot of people who feel better in their skin, like I do, if they’re open with themselves and their lives, if they’re not trying to protect anything. That becomes really hard.”

There would undoubtedly be a different set of hurdles for an openly gay PGA Tour player to climb than there was for Jones or Collins or anyone else, for that matter. Each case is specific unto itself.

Then again, as Simpson succinctly said of the potential scenario before driving away, “Really, it’s just like any other profession.”

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Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

By Tiger TrackerFebruary 21, 2018, 7:00 pm

Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

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Woods happy to help Furyk at Ryder Cup

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 6:58 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods didn't hesitate when Jim Furyk asked him to become a vice captain at the upcoming Ryder Cup.

Woods said Wednesday that Furyk asked he and Steve Stricker “a while ago” whether they were interested in being assistants in Paris as the Americans try to win a Ryder Cup on foreign soil for the first time in 25 years.

“He’s one of my best friends,” Woods said of Furyk, “and whatever he wants, whatever he needs, I’m there to help him. We’re worked well the last couple of years in the cups together.”

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Though Woods has said that he wants to be a playing vice captain, he has been an assistant at each of the past two international team competitions.

Furyk, Woods and Stricker were all assistants at Hazeltine, where the U.S. won in a rout.

“Jim is very detailed, very smart, very analytical, and he’s just a fantastic leader,” Woods said. “For him to ask Stricks and I together, it will be special for both of us.”

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Woods to hit '4 or 5' drivers each day at Honda

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 6:25 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Those hoping Tiger Woods will wield the driver early and often this week at PGA National likely will be disappointed.

Depending on wind direction, he said he will only hit “four or five” drivers each round.

During Wednesday’s pro-am, Woods hit driver on six holes. He found two fairways with the big stick and found the right rough four times, though a few of those misses were only a few yards off the fairway.

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In two starts this year, Woods has struggled mightily with every club off the tee, but driver has been especially troublesome. He has found only 36 percent of the fairways so far (30 of 84).

The Champion Course here is a par 70, with water and bunkers often lining the fairways. Putting the ball in play off the tee will be at a premium, and so Woods opted for a low, penetrating 2-iron six times in the pro-am.

Woods said he did not make any equipment changes following the missed cut at Riviera.

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TT postscript: One birdie in casual pro-am round

By Tiger TrackerFebruary 21, 2018, 6:15 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Here are a few observations after watching Tiger Woods’ pro-am round Wednesday at the Honda Classic:

• As expected, the stress level was minimal at PGA National. He had a short warmup (considering it was still freakin’ dark when he was about to tee it up, at 6:45 a.m.) and generally took little time contemplating shots, except for a few clubs off the tee.

• Tiger spent a lot of time chipping, pitching and putting after completing a hole. No surprise there. He didn’t play a practice round Monday or Tuesday, and he hasn’t competed here since 2014. Gotta get in that work.

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• He hit six drivers Wednesday. That’s probably one or two more than he will in competition, depending on wind direction. Two of those drives found the fairway. The other four were varying degrees off-line in the right rough, none more wild than his push slice on the difficult sixth hole that was probably 60 yards right. At least it was playable over there – water runs all the way down the left side.

• It’s not quite a stinger, but he hit more than a few 2-iron shots off the tee, with a sweet, little draw. That’ll play quite nicely here.

• We said it for a few rounds at Torrey Pines, and then again for one day at Riviera, but here goes: Woods appears to have taken the left side of the course out of play. Whether that remains true after playing under “game speed” this week, who knows?

• Woods made only one birdie, after getting up and down out of the greenside bunker on the par-5 third. His pro-am stat line, for those interested: 7 of 14 fairways, 12 greens and 31 putts and shot around 2 over. Again, he was not really trying.

• Best shot of the day? His fairway-bunker shot on the sixth hole (while playing his second ball). He skied a mid-iron from 187 yards to kick-in range. A little more of that, please.