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Lusetich: Award snub proves Tiger Woods has made some enemies
The paranoia enveloping Team Tiger when it comes to the media doesn’t need any reinforcement.
But it got some Thursday when the Golf Writers Association of America controversially handed its highest honor, Player of the Year, to Adam Scott. The decision was immediately perceived as a snub of Tiger Woods, who, after all, had five PGA Tour wins in 2013.
That matches the number of career wins on the Tour by such esteemed players as Luke Donald, Padraig Harrington, Tom Lehman, Hunter Mahan and Justin Rose.
Woods was named PGA Tour Player of the Year -- by his peers -- and won the equivalent honor from the PGA of America, which uses a points system. He won the money title, too, as well as the prestigious Vardon Trophy for lowest stroke average throughout the year.
Be sure, if any other player had that kind of year, Player of the Year becomes a slam dunk.
But not, it seems, for Tiger Woods.
There are, many of my colleagues point out, valid reasons for Woods being overlooked by the GWAA in what was a very close vote. (Scott won by five from 218 ballots cast, receiving 75 votes. Phil Mickelson and Henrik Stenson all but split the rest of the vote.)
Scott slayed demons both personal and national in rebounding from the devastation of choking away the 2012 British Open to become the first Australian to win the Masters, in a playoff against Angel Cabrera.
He also won The Barclays -- the first of the four FedEX Cup playoff events -- and at year’s end went home to win the Australian PGA Championship, the Aussie Masters and the World Cup (partnering with Jason Day) and to finish second to Rory McIlroy in the Australian Open.
The GWAA award spans the entire year and doesn’t limit itself to PGA Tour performances, so to many Scott mounted a strong case. And then there was the fact that Woods, for the fifth straight year, failed to win a major.
Majors have always been how Woods defines his own legacy.
But the fact remains he won two World Golf Championship events -- Doral and Firestone -- and The Players, which boasts the strongest field of any tournament in the world. These may well be the three toughest events to win outside of the four majors.
Mickelson mounted an emotional case with the thrilling victory at Muirfield, but his other two victories -- the Scottish Open and Phoenix -- weren’t strong enough.
Stenson’s finish to the season -- winning both the U.S. and European tours’ lucrative finales -- was breathtaking but, again, didn’t outweigh five PGA Tour victories.
So why was Woods overlooked?
It’s true that he suffers from having set the bar too high. Compared to his many stellar seasons, 2013 was pretty average. That’s not fair, of course, but -- to quote a favorite Woodsism -- it is what it is.
But there’s another element to the story.
Woods suffers from a deeper problem that has nothing to do with birdies and bogeys. He has, throughout his career, barely hidden his disdain for those who cover him.
He does, to his credit, front up and do his duty after rounds and before tournaments -- far more than, say, Mickelson, who will often blow off the media -- but Woods does his level best to provide nothing of substance in those sessions. That doesn’t go unnoticed. There’s a price to pay, too, for the arrogance of Team Tiger in dealing with the media.
There’s also the more human explanation: Writers tend to like players who like them back.
The famous scribe, Dan Jenkins, asked to go to dinner with Woods and was essentially told by Mark Steinberg, Woods’ agent, that there was nothing in it for them. He’s not much of a Tiger fan, and neither is John Feinstein, though I’ve often wondered how much that has to do with the fact that before Woods loathed him, he ignored him.
A few members of the media have been able to penetrate the blockade Woods sets up -- I was one of them for a while -- but he’s so convinced he’ll be betrayed that such relationships never end well.
It’s a pity because it doesn’t have to be such a poisonous cycle -- a message his team should be trying to impart rather than echoing, as it does, his prejudices.
In my book, "Unplayable," I wrote that in 2009, when Woods needed the restraint of the media “he got instead their revenge.” I can report that nothing much has changed.
Woods has the power to alter this dynamic, but I wonder if he wants to.
I can imagine him reading this news today and thinking how lucky he’ll be to not have to sit through another GWAA awards dinner.