AUGUSTA, Ga. – Augusta National chairman Billy Payne chastised Tiger Woods Wednesday during the annual State of the Masters address.
Payne used surprisingly strong language in expressing disappointment in Woods while also expressing hope for his future.
“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,” Payne said. “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.”
It's rare for Augusta National officials to take a player to task in such a manner, perhaps even unprecedented. The message raises the question of whether Augusta National officials were dismayed that Woods chose the Masters to make his return to golf after his fall from grace. Payne was asked if he was concerned that Woods was overshadowing the Masters.
'We don't look at things that way,' Payne said. 'We are very secure in who we are, and the Masters has almost now a 74-year history. We just kind of do things our way. We are not threatened by other big news stories or things like that.'
The Masters has been dominated by Woods at the expense of other stories that might normally have been told. Players have expressed frustration in being asked so many Woods' questions. In Jack Nicklaus' news conference Tuesday, he was asked 41 questions with 15 about Woods.
Payne was asked if security was strengthened to protect Woods.
'We have a significant history and track record to responding to all types of situations by the dedication of both planning and resources, and, of course, we were very aware of and responsive to the possible issues of this week,' Payne said. 'So without going into detail, I think we did what we would always do and that is make adequate provision for every contingency.'