Hawk's Nest: If a ball moves in the woods ...


Maybe his golf ball moved from its original position behind Conway Farms’ first green last Friday afternoon. Maybe it didn’t. When it comes to judging the man moving the stick, however, Joe Sixpack never oscillates. Opinions on Tiger Woods were set in stone long ago. For a guy who owns one of the greatest short games ever, Woods’ powers of polarization are even more remarkable.

There are lovers and there are haters – two massive groups very comparable in size. The Tigerphiles defend their man to the death and tell you with a straight face that Sir Eldrick will blow past Jack Nicklaus sometime in 2016. The Anti-Tigers chuckle and tell you the good old days are long, long gone.

Longtime loyalists laid low during Woods’ personal trauma in 2009-10, renewing their memberships to Club Red Shirt in a very discreet manner. They don’t remember any of that stuff now. As for the other half, Tiger’s off-course behavior served as the ultimate confirmation of his selfish behavior. Forgive and forget? Probably never. Definitely not yet.

It all came into play again after the second round of the BMW Championship, when Woods was penalized two strokes for being the most famous golfer who ever lived. If David Lynn decides to clear a loose impediment that might interfere with his next shot, there is no freelance videographer around to document the occurrence. Only Lynn would know if he broke a rule, at which point he would have to decide whether to turn himself in.

When I heard about the Woods incident, which began to unfold shortly after my live chat, I found the video and watched it three or four times. Frankly, I was expecting indisputable evidence that Tiger had committed a violation, but that’s not what I saw. I woke up Saturday morning and looked at it again. And again.

No question, the Nike logo shifts perhaps a quarter of a rotation as Woods tries to remove the stick, but that doesn’t mean the ball wound up in a different spot. A round object can roll without moving laterally. What happened in those trees certainly looked dubious, but did the visual transcript prove conclusive?

I’ll let you make that call because you already did.

“I feel like nothing happened,” the defendant would say a day later. “I felt like the ball oscillated and that was it.” In other words, if Woods were David Lynn, he wouldn’t have called a penalty on himself. Two different worlds on the same piece of property. Life in the fishbowl as opposed to the comforts of invisibility.

If I had to make an educated guess, perhaps 55 to 60 percent of all Woods’ shots in competition are shown on television. Nobody else probably reaches 10 percent. It’s not that Tiger is chained to a higher standard than anyone else, but a totally different set of parameters in terms of instant public access. There are no hiding places in his universe.

The problem with greatness is that it never vanishes, never takes a day off. It can be your best friend one minute, a monumental hindrance the next. It all comes with the territory, as does a sharply divided populace. I’m surprised PGA Tour official Slugger White slapped two strokes on Woods. I’m not surprised Tiger was fairly defiant about it.

Most players would just take it like a man. None of them, however, would have been sent to the principal’s office to begin with.

RAIN HAPPENS. In 2013, it has happened quite often on the tour – the BMW became the 22nd tournament (among 39) to be affected by Mutha Nature. All three playoff events have dealt with weather-related suspensions, annoying my West Coast friends to no end.

They point to their blue skies and ask why a postseason tourney isn’t held Out There. It’s a fair question without a real good answer, the best explanation being that the four title sponsors are very happy with the markets they’re in now. When you pony up an elephant-sized share of loot to host gatherings of this significance, you get a say on where they’re held.

New York, Boston, Chicago, Atlanta. Hard to argue with that group, rain or shine, but the absence of the West Coast is somewhat notable in that the Tour doesn’t take advantage of televising at least one event in prime time. Football is the villain here, and while there is no avoiding a head-on confrontation with the mighty pigskin no matter where you play, an evening golf telecast wouldn’t be the stupidest idea ever.

One potential snag could involve finding an appropriate venue. The West Coast simply doesn’t have an abundance of courses capable of staging (or willing to stage) a big-league Tour stop. I’ve been saying for years that the FedEx Cup playoffs should end with a match-play tournament at Pebble Beach, but it’s not like Camp Ponte Vedra cares what I think.

Some funny irony: When the AT&T National Pro-Am was struggling through another rough weather week back in the late 1990s, I wrote a piece wondering why the Tour didn’t come to Pebble Beach in the early fall instead of February. I was told the Monterey Peninsula couldn’t accommodate such a move because autumn is its busy season. Without hotel rooms, claimed the naysayers, you can’t have a golf tournament.

Wouldn’t you know it? Five years later, the Champions Tour began spending the last week of September at Pebble Beach in a tournament known as the First Tee Open, at which point I felt like I’d been sold a bunch of fake gold jewelry. I’m guessing the older fellas aren’t sleeping in pup tents. And that the Tour could have appropriated that scheduling slot to the big boys if it really wanted to, then turned it into a Fedex Cup fiesta a few years later.

Meanwhile, the match-play finale isn’t going to happen because Accenture is said to hold exclusive rights on the format – someone must think a second collection of matches would weaken the WGC event. Anyway, there’s no crime in envisioning a perfect world, which it obviously isn’t.

Instead of having perfect weather and tiny galleries at Pebble Beach next week, we’ll probably get perfect weather and tiny galleries in Atlanta.

IT’S NOT LIKE I don’t think Jim Furyk is a Hall of Famer. In the golden age of pro golf’s power era, Furyk is by far the most successful control player alive. Sixteen career wins and a major title, eight U.S. Ryder Cup teams, the FedEx Cup overall crown in 2010 ...

You can find plenty of enshrined guys who have done less, which is the problem. When the Hall relocated to northern Florida and fell under Tour auspices 15 years ago, I was given a vote, which might have lasted two years. I quickly realized my WGHOF standards were quite different from those of most others – I originally thought you needed multiple major titles to even warrant consideration.

Then again, I wasn’t using the new Hall to sell real estate or cross-promote various business interests. Some sports journalists are under the godforsaken impression that commercial motives shouldn’t come into play on the highest of honors – silly me. So I gave back my vote and have watched the WGHOF lower its standards to the point where someone has to be inducted every year, which doesn’t make me angry or sad. Just a bit uninterested.

Back to Furyk. If Colin Montgomerie, who never won an official golf tournament in the United States, can get in so quickly, they should give Not-So-Jumbo Jimbo the keys to the place. Yes, Monty won seven consecutive European Tour money titles and was indeed a Ryder Cup hero many times over, but his dominance overseas came at a time when most top-tier European players were competing in the United States.

A big fish in a small pond, Montgomerie’s reluctance to go head-to-head on a regular basis as a member of the world’s best tour never sat well with me – and might have accounted for his inability to win in the U.S. That said, the guy is in the Hall, and they’re not gonna be holding a re-vote anytime soon.

Furyk’s 59 last Friday was a milestone achievement in a career defined by accomplishment. One great round may not strengthen his WGHOF case, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. Over the years, I’ve gotten a sense that Furyk has been a bit unloved. It’s not unusual for one of my live chats to include a complaint about his deliberate manner, the perception being that Furyk is a slow player, which he really isn’t.

His late collapses at last year’s U.S. Open and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational didn’t exactly fortify his popularity level, and his inability to hole a crucial putt at the Ryder Cup reaffirmed to some that he has underachieved against the Euros. I see a dude who has been one of America’s best players for the better part of two decades, a gritty short hitter who has thrived in the land of giants.

He’s a virtual lock to make the Hall of Fame regardless, and when he does get inducted, nobody will remember that Furyk squandered another final-round lead at the BMW Championship Monday afternoon. For better or worse.