By Michael Bamberger
Thursday, January 17, 2008

People are saying the cover of the Jan. 19 issue of Golfweek — a noose, nobody in it — is out-of-bounds, an over-the-top way to illustrate a two-week-old news story about Kelly Tilghman's "lynch" remark regarding Tiger Woods. Tim Finchem didn't like it, but the fact is the commissioner is not in the news business. The Golfweek cover is genius!

\nIt takes all the old rules and turns them inside out. Traditionally, the American golf press has addressed its scandals, modest though they may be, with admirable restraint, but those days are over. In fact, the noose cover makes you realize all the opportunities that have been missed over the years for golf to really enjoy its various controversies.

For instance, you may remember the Ryder Cup at the Country Club in 1999, when Justin Leonard holed that monster putt to secure at the least a tie for the U.S. and the American players ran all over the green even though Jose Maria Olazabal of Spain still had a meaningful putt. The SI cover shot showed Justin Leonard, celebrating, putter in the air. Bad choice.

Here's how that story should have been illustrated: a picture of Spaniards being trampled by bulls running through the streets in Pamplona.

Or how about Hall Thompson in '90, when the PGA Championship was headed to Shoal Creek in Birmingham, and the club's owner said the club had no black members because "that's just not done here." The New York Times ran a picture that showed the gates of the club.

Not bad, but here's a better shot, even if you have to stage it: the gates of the club, shot from the inside, with 40 or 50 African Americans on the outside, carrying golf clubs and briefcases, sticking their heads through the bars of the gate.

In 1995, Ben Wright, in an interview about the state of the LPGA, made several homophobic and sexist comments. The New York Post ran a picture of Big Ben, in golf shirt, with the headline, "The Boob on the Tube." That's hard to improve upon, right?

Wrong! Doesn't go far enough in the new go-for-it news age. Consider something like this instead: a picture of two naked female golfers, necking in a bunker, surrounded by gaping spectators.

Remember when Phil Mickelson showed up for the 2004 Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills with — what was this professional golfer thinking — new clubs? Lefty parted ways with Titleist and showed up in Detroit as a Callaway man. Hal Sutton, the U.S. captain, and others went crazy and The Detroit Free Press ran a picture of a glum Phil standing beside a glum Tiger.

So old-school! A much more effective way to illustrate the story would have been to re-create the 1930 Grant Wood painting "American Gothic," the one that depicts the severe farmer holding a pitchfork standing beside his severe wife. But you replace the Mr. and Mrs. with Phil and Amy, all smiley, and show him ditching the pitchfork and grabbing a Callaway driver, dollar bills raining down on them. Now that makes the point.

In 2002, Martha Burk, lady radical, suggested by letter that Augusta National admit women. The Augusta National chairman, Hootie Johnson, responded by saying that change would not come to his club "at the point of a bayonet." The Augusta Chronicle published staid pictures of Johnson, in his green members coat, to illustrate to story. So boring. So 2002.

This is how we do it in 2008. You get a picture of Hootie in one of those Georgia hunting preserves, in camo, a hunting rifle over one shoulder, a dead quail in his hands. And in the mouth of the quail? The very letter Martha Burk had written him in the first place! You like?

A little staged, you say. Maybe you like your cover art simple, not cluttered by headlines or bylines or teases to other stories. Fair enough. Try this out. In 1997 Fuzzy Zoeller made his infamous fried-chicken-and-collard-greens comment, his suggestions for Tiger, who had earned the right to set the '98 champions dinner menu. Here's the perfect cover art: just a watermelon, all green and red, with little black seeds, surrounded by nothing but white, taking its inspiration from the Beatles' White Album.

We leave you with this dust-up, an oldie but goodie. The player: Tiger Woods. The place: Pine Mountain, Ga. The offense: Woods failed to show up at a dinner where he was being honored as the collegiate golfer of the year. The art then (if there was any): Tiger Woods, looking skinny and hungry. What Golfweek would do now: a recreation of da Vinci's "The Last Supper," but with Tiger running away from the table, making a getaway in Footjoy sneaks.

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