Tom Watson has been troubled by Tiger Woods's act for a long time now. The cursing. The banging of clubs. The detached disdain. Watson cannot stand that stuff. He thinks it's disrespectful to the game's history. He considers it dismissive of the great players who came before. More than anything: Tom Watson believes it is impolite.
This is because, more than anything, Watson believes golf is a gentleman's game.
Watson has rarely said anything about it. Sure, he might mention his disgust in passing during an interview or to a friend. "He really shouldn't be setting that sort of example for kids," he has told me more than once. But Watson did not want to talk about it publicly.
"Tiger doesn't need my advice," he would say.
What he meant was this: Tiger didn't want his advice. And Watson knew it. Yes, Watson has won eight major championships, five of them British Opens. Yes, he has been named PGA player of the year six times. (Only Woods, a 10-time laureate, has won the honor more.) Yes, Watson is, even now, an iconic world golf figure. And he has never been shy about expressing his views about golf or anything else.* He is, most will tell you, a bit of a scold.
*When I was writing a column for The Kansas City Star, I occasionally would do a piece with nothing but what I hoped were funny lists. Watson called me up one time to tell me he did not like the list columns. At all.** "Do you want to be just a silly sportswriter," he asked, "or do you want to try to be great?" No, Tom's not shy about expressing his views.
**He wasn't the only reason, but I did stop doing the list columns.
Still, Watson came to understand that Woods was not interested in his views. Watson's various interactions with Tiger seemed to leave him pretty cold. And so he mostly kept them to himself. "I'm just an old man," he would say. "I don't know these younger players very well. If they ask, sure, I'll be happy to answer anything. But they don't need me telling them anything."
Well, look who's talking now. Twice recently, Watson has come out, once in his Kansas City hometown and again at a golf tournament in Dubai, and lambasted Woods. What's most interesting is that Watson has not really blasted Woods over his off-the-course stuff—the infidelities and the stay at the sex-addiction clinic, which made him the butt of late-night talk-show jokes. No, on those subjects Watson has basically said what everyone says: Woods should apologize and make things right with his family and make amends. Obvious stuff.
But when it comes to Woods's behavior on the golf course, well, Watson rages.