This is the aftermath of a moment at the Masters that won’t go away, and which bothers me. Billy Payne, as chairman of Augusta National Gold Club, and host to all in attendance, exercised not only his privilege, but his responsibility. It is a tradition dating back to the first chairman, Clifford Roberts, and is in no way “hogging the spotlight,” as one crusty critic barked in a letter to an editor.
“Hogging the spotlight!” my dear lady? (I love the name of whom I quote— Maggie O’Shaughnessy, though it has the ring of an alias) The chairman OWNS the spotlight, for the Masters is his responsibility. He is the face of this great championship. The “lady” is privileged to speak out only if she is in the chairman’s audience, or has access to the transcript of his address to the press. And that applies also to the New York Times, whose columnist drew selected phrases from the chairman’s message and assailed him from afar.
The chairman first addressed Tiger Woods’ game “as worthy of the likes of Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer.” But,” he said as he continued, “as he now says himself, he forgot in the process to remember that with fame and fortune come responsibility, not invisibility. It is not simply the degree of his conduct that is so egregious here, it is the fact that he has disappointed all of us. Our hero did not live up to the expectations of the role model we saw for our children. Certainly his future will never again be measured only by the sincerity of his performance to par, but by the sincerity of his efforts to change.”
Anything dastardly cruel there?
When asked for more, the chairman said, “I think I’ve already said all I want to say about Tiger and our hopes for his future.”
Some critics referred to the chairman’s sincere monologue as a “scolding.” When I have been scolded, I knew that I was being scolded, and to this point, I have yet to read any protest from Woods himself. He was much harder on himself, in both his first coming-out at Sawgrass, then at his first meeting with the press at the Masters. In Augusta, his face was sallow and drawn, his nerve ends exposed, and he was quite uneasy. By the time he struck his second shot on the l4th fairway, he was the old raging Tiger again. Threw his club, turned in disgust and whatever crass expression he may have delivered was not audible. By Sunday twilight, the former Tiger appear to have been resurrected. He ignored autograph seekers, stalked out of sight and on to the next step in his rehabilitation.
Just what that will be, and just what steps he has pursued, and whatever his status as a family man may be, we are all unaware. His wife, Elin, and family have kept a low profile, and if progress has been made in any kind of reconciliation, it remains obscure.
As to the opening criticism of these unlicensed Billy Payne baiters—unlicensed in that they sound off from afar—I would assure them that hearing the chairman in person, I found him to be quite gracious, regretful and hopeful for the future. What more, I ask of all the Maggie O’Shaughnessys out there, what more could one ask?