Golf

Chamblee doesn't defuse situation

Tiger Woods (left) and Brandel Chamblee (right)
Tiger Woods isn't likely to forgive and forget Brandel Chamblee's comments.
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Robert Lusetich

After more than 20 years of covering everything from election campaigns to the Olympic Games, Robert Lusetich turned his focus to writing about his first love: golf. He is author of Unplayable: An Inside Account of Tiger's Most Tumultuous Season. Follow him on Twitter.

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On Wednesday morning a text arrived from Orlando to say that embattled analyst Brandel Chamblee would finally be appearing again on the Golf Channel.

It hadn’t gone unnoticed that since Chamblee touched off a firestorm by implying that Tiger Woods was a cheat – in a column for golf.com – he had not been seen on the network.

Some – including some at the Golf Channel - read those tea leaves and wondered whether Chamblee’s days as a TV talking head might be numbered.

The truth, however, went more like this: borrowing a page from the Tiger 2009 Thanksgiving playbook, the Golf Channel buried its head in the sand, ignored the story and hoped the controversy would just go away.

Because that’s a strategy that has been so successful throughout the millennia ...

Privately, executives at the network justified dodging the story by noting that Chamblee made his case for giving Tiger’s five-win season an “F” – and equating it to an F he’d received on a fourth-grade test in which he cheated - for another organization, hence it had nothing to do with them.

At least two people weren’t buying it: Woods and his carnivorous agent, Mark Steinberg, who’d – however theatrically - threatened legal action against Chamblee for leveling a charge that, among golfers, is as serious as a heart attack.

"I don't know what the Golf Channel is going to do or not," Woods said in China on Monday.

"The whole issue has been very disappointing as he didn't really apologize and he sort of reignited the whole situation. So the ball really is in the court of the Golf Channel and what they are prepared to do."

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Woods knows the Golf Channel has never had much of a stomach for covering anything beyond birdies and bogeys and good-news stories; that it sees itself as a corporate partner and so avoids rocking the boat.

And he knows, too, that it needs the goodwill of the players, many of whom had fallen into line behind Woods.

He was also incensed that Chamblee issued a non-apology apology on Twitter. Chamblee apologized “for this incited discourse,” not for questioning Woods’ integrity as a golfer.

It didn’t help that Rory McIlroy piled on Chamblee – and the Golf Channel – on Wednesday.

“I am completely against what he said and I think he should be dealt with in the right way,” he said, also from China.

The “right way” had to sound a little chilling back in Orlando.

But by then, Chamblee already was in final preparations for his much-anticipated appearance on the network’s Golf Central show.

On Wednesday morning, I’d asked my insider whether Chamblee would be apologizing this time.

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“Not sure you can use the word ‘apologize’,” came the reply.

And wasn’t he right?

Chamblee spent more than three minutes engaging in verbal gymnastics that approached, but never reached, an actual apology.

He clarified more than apologized.

“In offering my assessment of Tiger’s year and specifically looking at the (rules) incidents in Abu Dhabi, Augusta, Ponte Vedra and Chicago, I said Tiger Woods was cavalier about the rules. I should have stopped right there,” Chamblee acknowledged.

“In comparing those incidents to my cheating episode in the fourth grade, I went too far.”

He conceded, too, that he should’ve listened to his editor at golf.com, who’d asked him to re-write the column.

So far, so good.

But then Chamblee said his mistake was he didn’t know with “100 percent certainty” what Woods’ intention was during his rules infractions, three of which were met with penalties upon review.

Just 99 percent?

He also went on to say that his son had told him that if he’d been “more diplomatic in what you wrote, perhaps people would be talking more about the issue than your assessment.”

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“He's a smart kid,” he concluded.

The inference, again, is clear: Chamblee’s error was in not being subtle enough in building a bridge between Woods’ rules imbroglios and cheating.

Be sure, despite the hopes of the Golf Channel brass, Wednesday’s appearance by Chamblee will not appease Woods in the slightest.

Nothing has changed.

I’m sure Steinberg has already called Golf Channel president Mike McCarley to further berate him for not bringing Chamblee into line.

And I can tell you this about Woods: he’s not inclined to forgive and he never forgets.

I expect he’ll take industrial action against Golf Channel and its parent, NBC; boycotting them in order to keep the pressure on Chamblee.

But I hope he’s not successful.

Even though he’s not a man without ego and is prone to overplaying his hand from time to time, Chamblee’s good at what he does.

It would be harsh if he were fired; at least as harsh as labeling Tiger a cheat.

Tagged: Tiger Woods, Brandel Chamblee

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