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Rory McIlroy’s no Tiger Woods when it comes to golf course tantrums

Rory McIlroy chucking his club into a lake at Doral revealed a double standard in golf, particularly when it comes to the judgement of Tiger Woods' behavior.

Eileen Blass-USA TODAY

If Tiger Woods tuned in to the WGC-Cadillac Championship on Friday, he could have been forgiven for wondering if Augusta’s green jackets decided to eliminate the suspense and award the Masters to Rory McIlroy a month early.

Indeed, Sunday’s scripted reunion between Rory McIlroy and his recalcitrant 3-iron -- thanks to the beneficence of Donald Trump -- capped a weekend of chuckling, attaboys, and figurative high-fives celebrating the fit of pique that landed the world No. 1’s Nike stick at the bottom of a lake on Trump’s Doral Blue Monster course.

Anyone who’s ever played even a partial round of golf knows the game can be frustrating enough to make the highest of handicappers throw irons, woods, even bags full of several of each into the nearest body of water. They don’t play the game for a living but even their atrocious behavior elicits laughter from bystanders.

So when McIlroy took out his ire over a water-logged shot to the par-5 eighth green on Friday, each 20-handicapper watching from afar and "every single professional golfer that played this game for a living at the highest level," as Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee gleefully pointed out on Friday night, "smiled when [Rory] did that."

For sure, Chamblee’s was the prevailing opinion of the weekend, as he and almost every broadcaster, writer, colleague, and Doral owner made excuses for and fawned over the golden boy’s terrific sidearm toss. There was no outrage, protest, complaint from any quarter — only praise for the ardor and dedication with which the four-time major champ plays such an incredibly difficult and maddening sport.

"He’s invested in the round, physically, mentally, technically, and certainly emotionally," Chamblee said. "Would you rather see that or would you see someone playing a round of golf dispassionately?"

As an observer who is certainly not a professional golfer, nor plays one on TV, but who has witnessed first hand the rage-filled, club-throwing tirades of a playing partner (torment another foursome next time, thanks), this typist can’t wait to see how McIlroy’s "passion" transfers to a muni near you. Because one could not miss the high marks he earned for his 3-iron heave, and the sycophantic acclaim he received for grudgingly expressing regret that impressionable kids might seek to mimic his antics.

"Takes one to know one. It was a good release, yes," said Henrik Stenson, who, along with Bubba Watson, McIlroy’s other playing competitor in the first two rounds last week, has had his share of public temper tantrums. "He’s a strong fellow for not the tallest guy, and he had good speed on that one, too."

To be fair, McIlroy’s action hurt no one, except, perhaps some unsuspecting fish, and was, in his words, far from his "proudest moment." And those who believe we ought to hide the women and children whenever a golfer, any televised professional athlete, or the next-door neighbor drops an f-bomb may want to get over it and move on with their lives.

Certainly, McIlroy was hardly the first high-profile golfer to manhandle a club, as old footage of the late Tommy Bolt that aired over the weekend indicated.

"If you are going to throw a club, it is important to throw it ahead of you, down the fairway, so you don’t have to waste energy going back to pick it up," the 1958 U.S. Open winner and author of How to Keep Your Temper on the Golf Course reportedly joked at one time.

But the deification of St. Rory that occurred on the practice range prior to his final round was just too much. The made-for-TV photo-op had everything -- the ceremonial presentation of the offending club from The Donald, a few jocular bon mots from the tourney host that played more to the crowd ringing the area than to McIlroy, and the guys in the Golf Channel booth providing the requisite laugh track.

"McIlroy played with just 13 clubs yesterday, so the 3-iron is back and rumor has it that it’s gonna end up on the wall here in a case at Doral clubhouse," NBC’s Dan Hicks on Sunday, with partner Johnny Miller tee-heeing in the background, chortled during a playback of the Trump-to-McIlroy handoff. "I guess -- 'The club throw by McIlroy here in 2015.'"

The occasion was all for show, of course, since Nike delivered a shiny new bat to its star pitchman before Sunday’s finale, and McIlroy pledged to return the scuba diver-salvaged iron to Trump after the game so he could ostentatiously display the world’s most famous 3-iron.

The kudos began flooding in almost immediately after McIlroy pulled that shot into the water. Sure, there were a few obligatory tsk-tsks for setting a bad example for young ones, and McIlroy played along.

"It wasn’t something that I would encourage anyone to do. I wouldn’t encourage kids to do it if they were watching on television. It wasn’t very role model-ish of me," said McIlroy, whose peg on Friday was not the first time the Heir Apparent has taken his fury out on a defenseless swoosh stick, despite all the gushing over how uncharacteristic his misdeed was.

rory club toss

The pseudo finger-wagging was clearly all in fun, since none of those issuing playful admonitions could keep a straight face when suggesting that Rory may have bent, ever so slightly, golf’s unwritten rules of etiquette.

But, seriously, Rory, the golf community chimed in, good on ‘ya.

"I spoke to Rory about it. I said it was great," Trump said Saturday on Golf Channel’s Morning Drive. "It showed wonderful emotion and it was a controlled club throw. If you look, he just did it so nice and easy like everything else he does."

All of which must have left Woods, were he viewing the proceedings in between getting his game tournament-ready and overseeing the impending launch of his new upscale restaurant, bemused, if not steaming.

When was the last time the punditry wrapped Tiger in a warm, fuzzy embrace for giving into the passion that fueled his competitive drive, gave him high marks for the style with which he kicked a 9-iron, or engaged in a chuckle-fest at the way he hurled a profanity?

Let’s see, that would be, um, never.

"Woods tosses his club back to his golf bag in anger, curses under his breath, and he’s the angry Black man," Curtis Bunn wrote on Saturday. "McIlroy slung a club into the water … and everyone laughed."

Bunn noted what Tom Watson said about Woods five years ago.

"His swearing and his club throwing, that should end," Tom Watson said in 2010. "That’s not part of what we [excellent use of the royal 'we,' Tommy Boy] want to project as far as the professional golf tour is concerned."

No bloviating last week from the golf legend after Rory’s caper, though similar pranks from Woods have elicited a tad more outrage on social media.

There was a slightly different take on Rory’s shenanigans.

Double standard much?

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