Sports Law • Risk Management

February 14, 2011: Tiger Woods Spitting in the Face of Golf?

Here we go again . . . Tiger Woods has made it back in the news for yet another mistake. This time he spit on the green. That’s right, Woods spit on the green during the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, which is part of the European Tour. In the United Arab Emirates, where the tournament is being played, spitting in public can be a fineable offense according to today’s report on ESPNStar.com.

For his breach of etiquette, Woods allegedly will be fined by the Tour for his ungentlemanly conduct, which violated the Tour’s code of conduct. But after watching the video posted today on Yahoo! Sports, Woods’ act seems a bit casual and unplanned. The video footage shows Woods resetting his golf ball, picking up his marker and eyeing the line of his putt. In the middle of this, he turns his head to one side and spits onto the green. This act does not appear to be committed out of anger, but instead from habit or mere carelessness.

Decorum is strongly emphasized in the game of golf; however, spitting on some grass, while disgusting to watch, seems a long way from other misdeeds like throwing golf clubs, or say, violating the sanctity of marriage. If golf is still supposed to be a gentleman’s game, then why is someone who fails to act like a gentleman allowed to play without sufficient repercussions? Obviously the Tour punishment is directly in response to Woods’ actions on the green and not those actions off the green, but should it matter?

What’s more is it is too easy for Woods to hand over a few dollars for acting poorly, but the monetary punishment is seemingly painless to a rich man like Woods. The only real harm is that Woods is back receiving bad press. I do not condone an individual either befouling a golf course or a marriage, but instead I encourage those running the sport of golf to adhere to strong ethical standards which support men and women of character to play this gentleman’s game.