AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — The chairman of Augusta National Golf Club had harsh words for Tiger Woods, saying the world’s best golfer disappointed everyone with his sex scandal and didn’t live up to expectations as a role model.
Billy Payne said Wednesday that Woods won’t be judged in the future solely on his performance as a golfer, but by the sincerity of his efforts to change as a person.
“As he now says himself, he forgot in the process to remember that with fame and fortune comes responsibility, not invisibility,” Payne said during his annual state of the Masters news conference. “It is not simply the degree of his conduct that is so egregious here. It is the fact that he disappointed all of us, and more importantly, our kids and our grandkids.”
Woods is returning to competitive golf for the first time since a Thanksgiving night car crash unleashed reports of a secret private life that included numerous extramarital affairs. He was dropped by several major sponsors and spent 45 days in therapy.
“Our hero did not live up to the expectations of the role model we saw for our children,” Payne said. “I hope he now realizes that every kid he passes on the course wants his swing, but would settle for his smile.”
Woods will tee off in the next-to-last group Thursday afternoon with K.J. Choi and Matt Kuchar, in pursuit of his 15th major championship and fifth Masters title.
“We at Augusta hope and pray that our great champion will begin his new life here tomorrow in a positive, hopeful and constructive manner, but this time, with a significant difference from the past,” Payne said. “This year, it will not be just for him, but for all of us who believe in second chances.
“Is there a way forward? I hope yes. I think yes. But certainly his future will never again be measured only by his performance against par, but measured by the sincerity of his efforts to change.”
Payne declined to answer specific questions about Woods, saying his prepared remarks were all he wanted to say on the matter. The chairman also refused to address any extra security measures that were put in place after Woods announced he would return to the game at the year’s first major championship.
However, Payne did scoff at the notion that Woods’ decision to play at Augusta will steal attention from the tournament itself.
“We don’t look at things that way,” Payne said. “We are very secure in who we are, and the Masters has almost now a 74-year history. We just kind of do things our way. We are not threatened by other big news stories or things like that.”