Sports

Augusta chairman scolds Tiger ahead of return

AUGUSTA, Ga. — On the day Tiger Woods arrived at the Masters, he changed out of his spikes after playing nine holes, walked across the parking lot and went upstairs to the office of Augusta National chairman Billy Payne.

Payne would not discuss details of their Sunday afternoon meeting.

Based on his blunt criticism of Woods during his annual news conference Wednesday, they probably weren't talking about how Woods was hitting the ball or his chances of winning a fifth green jacket.

"It is simply not the degree of his conduct that is so egregious here," Payne said. "It is the fact that he disappointed all of us, and more importantly, our kids and our grandkids. Our hero did not live up to the expectations of the role model we saw for our children."

They were the strongest words from a Masters chairman since Hootie Johnson's famous "point of a bayonet" reply to Martha Burk in the summer of 2002 when he defended the club's right to an all-male membership.

Payne was one of the Augusta National members who stood among the Georgia pines to the right of the first fairway on Monday, the first time Woods played before a gallery since being caught cheating on his wife five months ago.

No other golf official has been so outspoken about Woods' behavior.

No other major is like the Masters.

Even though Woods is a four-time champion and the No. 1 player in the world, he is at Augusta National by invitation, just like the other 95 players who will tee it up on Thursday.

Woods had already played his final practice round — nine holes with Mark O'Meara — and left the course when Payne held his news conference. The chairman saved his thoughts on Woods for the end of his opening statement.

"Is there a way forward? I hope yes. I think yes," Payne said. "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.

"I hope he now realizes that every kid he passes on the course wants his swing, but would settle for his smile."

Nike releases Tiger TV ad

Nike aired a new TV commercial Wednesday featuring Tiger Woods and the voice of his late father, an edgy move that calls out his personal problems on the eve of his return to competitive golf.

The ad aired on ESPN and the Golf Channel just one day before the Masters begins.

In the stark, black-and-white ad, a solemn Woods looks directly into the camera without speaking while a recording of his late father is heard, speaking about taking responsibility.

"Did you learn anything?" Earl Woods says.

Woods is returning to golf after a leave that followed revelations of infidelities and a stint in rehab. The ad marks the first TV ad for Woods, who had been the face of many companies, since his problems surfaced in late November.

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