ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Some have called him a maverick, some a megalomaniac fixated by the sound of his own voice. Whatever Ted Bishop’s legacy as president of the PGA of America was before Thursday evening when he decided to take to social media to defend Nick Faldo in his public row with Ian Poulter, he will now carry a much heavier burden into the sunset of his presidency – Insensitive.
The original activist president tweeted his way into infamy, done in by 118 thoughtless characters:“@IanJamesPoulter Faldo’s record stands by itself. Six majors and all-time (Ryder Cup) points. Yours vs. His? Lil Girl.”
For a man charged with leading an organization that’s singular mission is to grow the game from every corner, Bishop’s misguided tweet and Facebook posts were inexplicable and, ultimately, inexcusable.
In a hasty release, PGA vice president Derek Sprague dropped the final shoe in what has arguably been the association’s most eventful presidency.
“We apologize to any individual or group that felt diminished, in any way, by this unacceptable incident,” wrote Sprague, confirming a story first reported by GolfChannel.com that Bishop had been ousted.
Bishop had been the PGA’s most active and outspoken president, from last year’s anchored putter debate to his decision, however misguided, to bring Tom Watson forth to captain this year’s Ryder Cup team. But it won’t be those bold moves that will define his two years in office after his monumental blunder on Thursday.
In what became a far too familiar faux pas over the last few months, Bishop took to social media to make a statement, to defend Faldo who, in an ironic twist, started the spat with Poulter and Europe’s Ryder Cup core.
It was Faldo who said during last month’s matches that Sergio Garcia was “useless” during the 2008 Ryder Cup and that he “wasn’t in it” during the European side’s only loss in the last decade.
The Europeans rallied around the embattled Spaniard but did what they always do – keeping the dirty laundry safely tucked behind the team room doors, until Poulter released his autobiography “No Limits” with a surprisingly restrained take on Faldo’s darts.
“It makes me laugh. Faldo is talking about someone being useless at the 2008 Ryder Cup. That's the Ryder Cup where he was captain. That's the Ryder Cup where the Europe team suffered a heavy defeat,” Poulter wrote. “And he was captain. So who's useless? Faldo might need to have a little look in the mirror.”
From that missive life should have gone on, the air cleared in a spat neither player nor captain would win. It’s the European way, just ask Padraig Harrington.
“Clearly Nick wasn’t the best captain; I’ve seen him sign off tweets ‘useless captain’,” said Harrington, who played for Faldo in ’08 and was a vice captain this year at Gleneagles. “Thankfully, Nick Faldo’s career doesn’t rely on being a great captain; he was a great player.”
But instead Bishop took to social media to defend Faldo, with whome he was spending a few days at The Greenbrier in West Virginia.
He could have chastised Poulter for his lack of respect. He could have admonished the Englishman for his indifference to Faldo’s legacy, but if two years have taught us anything it is that’s not Bishop’s style to go quietly. So instead he added his insensitive jab, seven letters that will haunt him forever.
Still reeling from the heat he took for his gamble with Watson, Bishop lashed out. It was signature Ted, unapologetic and unedited. The moment exposed Bishop’s central weaknesses, the lack of a pause button and an unwavering belief in his own course.
History will not be kind to Bishop, not his principled stand against the USGA’s move on anchoring, not the olive branch he extended north to the PGA Tour that has brought the two organizations closer than they have been in years, and certainly not his attempt to wrest the U.S. Ryder Cup team out of a slide that has now been extended to eight losses in the last 10 matches.
He was Ted to the very end. Even his mea culpa was a miscue late Thursday when he told the Associated Press, “Obviously I could have selected some different ways to express my thoughts on Poulter's remarks. Golf had always been a sport where respect was shown to its icons. That seems to have gone by the wayside.”
Attempts to contact the deposed president were unsuccessful on Friday, the PGA’s most outspoken chief executive silenced by insensitivity and the instant reality of a modern world.
“If I had the chance to hit the delete button on the things that I sent out yesterday I would without hesitation,” Bishop said in a statement released after his dismissal.
On Friday Bishop was removed from office less than a month before he was scheduled to step down in Indianapolis, not as the association’s original maverick but as a mistaken and misguided figure.