First things first: While I'm not sure exactly how many times I've been paired with Tiger Woods, it has been often enough to convince me of his basic integrity as a golfer. Yes, Tiger is ultra-competitive. Yes, he can be accused of playing with "blinders" on during tournaments. But I have never -- not once -- seen him attempt to gain any unfair or dubious advantage. And that fact has me convinced there was neither ulterior motive nor inappropriate intent lurking beneath his involvement in various rules incidents this year.
So I can't say I agree with what Brandel Chamblee had to say about Tiger. Not completely anyway. His was a pretty strong point of view, one I would hesitate to replicate when talking about anyone, never mind the best player of this generation. I certainly don't think Tiger is "cavalier" with the rules.
But here's the thing. The resulting backlash against Brandel was also unfair. While he used language that was, in places, too hyperbolic for my taste, the principle of him being able to share with us his expert assessment is too important to be abused.
To my mind, Brandel is one of the best things on Golf Channel. And let's be clear: He isn't employed to give us facts; he is there to offer opinion. So he should be allowed to do so. That's what frustrated me most about this entire affair: the idea that someone in the media should somehow not be able to call it the way he or she sees it. That doesn't sit well with me.
Maybe tour players are just too spoiled. Because we are pampered in so many areas of our lives, we perhaps have unrealistic expectations when it comes to the media. In general we'd be better off not being so precious about what appears in print and on-screen. Our relationship with the media should be similar to what we have with our parents or closest friends: one where absolute frankness is best for all concerned. We all watch Golf Channel and read magazines like this one -- or at least I do -- in order to be more informed about what is going on in our little world. If that material is clouded by a need to give only a sanitized view, then the whole thing is failing in its intent.
I like the notion that the press in all its forms exists to hold tour players accountable for their actions. Journalists and broadcasters should not be mere cheerleaders. There's too much of that in golf right now, to be honest. And not nearly enough untainted honesty. If correspondents do nothing more than claim how great everything is, any semblance of reality is lost. Good things happen on tour every day -- and bad things too -- which is how it should all be reported. I have to believe that's what most people want, an accurate representation of events and issues. Anything else is an insult to our collective intelligence.
It works both ways though. Much of what went on between Tiger and Brandel could have been avoided if Tiger would give open answers to questions -- "real" interviews, not just "nothing" interviews. Imagine how much clearer everything could have been if he had sat down after the Masters or the Players or the BMW Championship and run us through exactly what went on and what he was thinking. Not doing so only encouraged all kinds of rampant speculation and generally ill-informed conspiracy theories.
As for Brandel, I don't want him to be less insightful, whether I agree with his positions or not. Sometimes I do; sometimes I don't. I don't want him scared of any repercussions. That only diminishes his contribution to ongoing debate within the game. It scares me to think we as players might be able to change how he goes about his job. He was hired to provide thought-provoking insights, not middle-of-the-road blandness, so let's let him get on with doing just that.