By DOUG FERGUSON, Associated Press
Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee apologized to Tiger Woods on Tuesday after insinuating the world's No. 1 player cheated during his five-win season.
Chamblee saved Woods for last in his report card of 14 players in a column posted last week on Golf.com. He told of getting caught cheating on a math test in the fourth grade, and how the teacher crossed a line through his "100" and gave him an "F."
Chamblee followed that anecdote by writing, "I remember when we only talked about Tiger's golf. I miss those days. He won five times and contended in majors and won the Vardon Trophy and ... how shall we say this ... was a little cavalier with the rules." He then gave Woods a "100" with a line through it, followed by the "F."
The 51-year-old Chamblee apologized in a series of posts on his Twitter account on Tuesday night.
"My intention was to note Tiger's rules infractions this year, but comparing that to cheating in grade school went too far," he wrote.
Mark Steinberg of Excel Sports Management, the agent for Woods, was so incensed by Chamblee's column that he released a statement to ESPN.com that accused the analyst of a desperate attempt to garner attention. In an interview with ESPN.com, Steinberg said he would "have to give some thought to legal action."
Steinberg did not reply to an email from The Associated Press.
No other golfer evokes such a mixture of praise and criticism than Woods, the main attraction of any sport for nearly 20 years. Chamblee's column struck a nerve with many, however, because of the implication that three rules violations and a penalty drop involving Woods amounted to cheating — the strongest accusation possible in golf.
"What brought me here was the realization that my comments inflamed an audience on two sides of an issue," Chamblee wrote on Twitter. "Golf is a gentleman's game and I'm not proud of this debate. I want to apologize to Tiger for this incited discourse."
Woods accepted a two-shot penalty in Abu Dhabi for taking relief from an embedded ball in a sandy area covered with vegetation. Augusta National gave him a two-shot penalty for taking the wrong drop in the second round of the Masters. And the PGA Tour gave him a two-shot penalty after his second round of the BMW Championship when video evidence showed that his ball moved slightly from behind the first green.
Also in question — at least on Internet blogs — was the drop Woods took on the 14th hole of the TPC Sawgrass during the final round of The Players Championship. Woods checked with playing partner Casey Wittenberg on where to take the penalty drop, which is standard procedure. Wittenberg said it was the correct spot.
Chamblee said in an earlier email to The Associated Press that he never said outright that he thinks Woods cheated, and that was by design.
"I think 'cavalier with the rules' allows for those with a dubious opinion of the BMW video," Chamblee said. "My teacher in the fourth grade did not have a dubious opinion of how I complete the test. But she was writing to one, and as I was writing to many, I felt it important to allow for the doubt some might have, so I chose my words accordingly.
"What people want to infer about that is up to them," he said. "I have my opinion, they can form theirs."
Video shows Woods' ball move as he tried to remove a small branch from in front of it at the BMW Championship. He maintained it only wobbled and returned to its original position. Woods watched the video in the rules trailer after the round, but still maintained it only oscillated. The tour docked him two shots.
"I don't feel I'm the one that needs to justify the 'F.' The BMW video does it for me, followed by Tiger's silence — until confronted — and then by his denials in the face of incontestable evidence to the contrary of his petitions," Chamblee said in the email. "To say nothing of the fact that he was disrespecting his position in golf, the traditions of golf and his fellow competitors, in my opinion."
Chamblee, who has developed a reputation of being critical of Woods' swing and golf game, is a contributor to "SI Golf Plus," which is not affiliated with Golf Channel.
Golf Channel declined to comment.
Chamblee said he was most surprised by Steinberg's comments to ESPN.com.
Woods' longtime agent told the website, "There's nothing you can call a golfer worse than a cheater. This is the most deplorable thing I have seen. I'm not one for hyperbole, but this is absolutely disgusting. Calling him a cheater? I'll be shocked, stunned, if something is not done about this. Something has to be done. There are certainly things that just don't go without response. It's atrocious. I'm not sure if there isn't legal action to be taken. I have to give some thought to legal action."