Tiger Woods enjoyed a five-victory, player-of-the-year 2013 season in which he regained the No. 1 spot in the world and repeatedly praised his overall performance as "pretty damn good."
On the flip side, Woods flopped in the four grand slam events and ended pitching a shutout in the majors for a fifth straight year. He was also in the spotlight, as he is wherever he is, on or off the course (and deep in Brandel Chamblee’s doghouse), for incurring four high-profile (is there any other way with Tiger?) penalties.
Chamblee, in assigning Woods an "F" for the season, as part of his year-ending report card, backed up the grade with a highlight reel of Tiger’s well-documented 2013 rules faux pas:
- An illegal drop at the Abu Dhabi Championship, which cost Woods a weekend tee time in his first global contest of the year
- That much-investigated improper drop at the Masters, which sparked extensive forensic scrutiny and came close to earning Tiger a DQ
- A controversial drop at the Players Championship that had Johnny Miller in full froth
- The removal of a twig during the BMW Championship that caused Woods’ ball to move and the golfer to refuse to concede, despite video evidence to the contrary, that his Nike One Tour D did more than "oscillate"
That set of infractions, some more spectacular than others (google: "flagstick, Augusta"), took on a life of its own after Chamblee, Golf Channel’s lead analyst, insinuated in his October Golf.com column that Woods’ serial violations constituted cheating.
"[Woods] won five times and contended in majors and won the Vardon Trophy [for leading scoring average]," Chamblee opined, "and [the ellipses are his] ... how shall we say this ... was a little cavalier with the rules."
Shortly thereafter, all hell broke loose:
- Woods threatened to sue Chamblee, for what offense was never really clear
- The author tweeted a weak apology and then conceded on air that he "went too far" in comparing Tiger’s infractions to his own schoolboy cheating incident
- Woods brushed off Chamblee’s contrition by suggesting that the network take its talking head out to the woodshed and seemed to put the tiff behind him before declining GC’s invitation for a post-round interview last week at Sherwood CC
In the meantime, Woods’ good buddy, Rory McIlroy traveled to China to jump to Tiger’s defense by blasting Chamblee as a "completely wrong" nobody, and, more recently, seven-time PGA Tour winner Geoff Ogilvy scolded both parties for fanning the flames of the silly squabble.
This, like most every story featuring the game’s most popular, and at the same time, divisive, personality, has legs. Chamblee, who has taken on Tiger for years about his personal failings and swing overhaul, showed another side to the TV audience last week during the second round of the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge.
The winner of the 1998 Greater Vancouver Open could not employ enough flowery phrases with which to praise Woods for his second-round, course-record-tying, 10-under 62 Friday at Sherwood CC.
"Tiger Woods, not only does he read putts better than anybody when he’s at his best," Chamblee gushed, "he executes at a level that you very rarely see in the history of the game of golf."
Woods and Jack Nicklaus were the "two best putters of all time," he raved. "They get the speed right, they get the line right, and they die it at the hole."
While his brash nature may have taken a brief hiatus, anyone worried that fallout from his feud with Woods might muzzle Chamblee heaved a sigh of relief after Tiger blew a four-stroke lead with eight holes to play and lost to Zach Johnson in a playoff on Sunday.
"Thursday and Friday [Tiger] is one of the best, but on the weekend you scratch your head," Chamblee declared about Woods’ scoring disparities over the week, in which he shot 71-62-72-70 on a course where he had won five times.
"Yesterday he had the read and the speed on the greens. He was clinical when the rest of the field was doubtful," Chamblee summed up. "Today was a different Tiger Woods. The golf course was certainly playing harder today but he is not the same guy on Saturday and Sunday that he is on Thursday and Friday."
And with that volley, the dimpled orb would appear to be back in Tiger’s court.