Wednesday, March 3, 2010

John Daly situation brings back the PGA Tour discipline policy; Comments on comments

I have been saying and writing for years now that The PGA Tour’s policy on disciplining players is a joke. Unlike other sports which routinely announce player fines and suspensions, the tour keeps them a deep, dark secret. The theory, according to Commissioner Tim Finchem, is that the tour is built on the players being thought of as gentlemen and announcing fines for profanity or misbehavior of any kind undercuts that image.

My belief—as I’ve said to Finchem and others in authority at the tour—is that that’s a bunch of hooey. To begin with, by letting the public know that it doesn’t tolerate misbehavior, the tour actually strengthens the image that it wants. More important than that, by announcing fines or suspensions, the tour sends a message to the players that it isn’t messing around. The only way to make fines a deterrent is by making the players who misbehave deal with what they’ve done in public.

There’s no better example than Tiger Woods, who has often complained about the fact that he is the most fined player in the history of the tour. Woods has been fined innumerable times for on-course profanity; for throwing clubs and for the behavior of his vigilante caddie, Steve Williams.

But the tour has never once announced any of his fines. Woods, as we all know, isn’t just a golfer he’s a corporation. Until November 27th he was the most carefully marketed athlete in history, his image burnished at every turn by the corporations he was in business with.

It is impossible not to wonder how Woods, his corporate sponsors and his image-makers would have felt if every week a story had appeared on how much money he’d been fined for misbehavior. There’s no doubt such stories would have undercut his image long before his serial affairs destroyed that image.

Everyone knows when you punish a child you don’t just say, ‘don’t do it again.’ You attach a consequence in the hope that the child will think twice before repeating the offense. No one ever attached a consequence for misbehavior to Tiger—or to anyone else on the tour. The money doesn’t matter, certainly not to Tiger and not to 99 percent of the players out there.

Most players like to tell stories about how they got fined: Paul Goydos once got fined for yelling profanities at the tape in the PGA Tour travel office when it wasn’t open on a Saturday afternoon. He likes to tell people that several of his fellow pros took up a collection to pay the $500 when the travel office changed its hours after his call.

Jay Haas tells the story about his one and only fine on tour. On the 18th hole of a miserable third round in Milwaukee he skittered an awful chip all the way across the green. As he walked to his ball he heard someone yell, “Haas, you suck!”

Normally the most mild-mannered guy you’ll ever meet, Haas snapped for an instant and yelled, ‘f---- you.,’ back at the guy.

The next day when rules official Wade Cagle called him into ask about a report that had been filed on the incident, Cagle said, “I’m sure you were misheard Jay, you were probably saying, ‘thank-you.’”

“Nope,” Haas said. “I said ‘f----- you.’ How much do I owe you?”

Those stories are funny because they involved guys who generally behave well. For them, a fine is an aberration just like Brad Faxon’s fine years ago for criticizing Scott Hoch for not playing in The British Open (criticizing another player publicly—conduct unbecoming) was an aberration.

Woods’s lousy behavior was never an aberration. It was who he was and no one seriously called him on it until Tom Watson brought it up several weeks ago.

The same is true of John Daly. John’s problem hasn’t been cursing or club-throwing. In fact, John Daly is about as nice a guy as you’ll meet on the golf tour. But, as everyone knows, he’s had serious issues since he first burst onto the scene in 1991 that go way beyond the occasional profanity.

Two days ago, Garry Smits broke a story in the Florida Times-Union that shows definitely how the tour has enabled Daly for almost 20 years. Because Daly had filed a libel suit against The Times-Union that was thrown out of court, Smits was able to gain access to the tour’s 486-page file on Daly, which was part of the court record.

Daly, it turns out, has been suspended six times during his career, has been fined more than $100,000—a drop in the bucket for someone who has lost that in a couple hours playing blackjack during his life—and has been ordered to go to counseling or rehab by the tour on seven different occasions. He was fined 11 different times for ‘conduct unbecoming,’ and was reprimanded TWENTY-ONE times for failing to give full effort.

At least two of the suspensions have been in the public domain because Daly talked about them. That said, what the file makes clear is that Daly was a repeat offender in all these areas and the tour did very little to try to stop him—or help him. When Daly was last suspended (and didn’t keep it a secret) at the end of 2008 I wrote that Finchem should call his fellow commissioners around the world and ask them to extend the suspension so that Daly couldn’t play golf ANYWHERE until he got help. He didn’t and Daly kept on playing—usually for appearance fees, which are allowed overseas.

Now Daly is trying once again to rebuild his life. He’s had surgery on his stomach to keep his weight down—he’s lost about 100 pounds—and he says he wants to take one more serious shot at being competitive on the tour again. Of course a few weeks ago, after missing another cut, Daly announced his retirement. Then he played a week later.

We can all root for John Daly because there’s no malice in him. That said, the tour did him no favors by covering up all the discipline he has faced through the years. It doesn’t do ANY of the players a favor by covering up their misbehavior. Maybe Finchem needs to spend less time defending Woods and more time thinking about how poorly his tour’s policies on discipline have worked out for—arguably—its two best-known players.


I really enjoyed a lot of the comments from yesterday on my dust-up with Michael Wilbon. If nothing else, they showed that people really do pay attention to what people in our business say and write.

Two quick things: For the record, so there is no confusion, my issues with Tiger Woods date to 1996—WAY before Rocco Mediate approached me about writing a book—when I compared his father to Stefano Capriati (which, in retrospect may have been unfair to Capriati) and criticized him for blowing off a dinner in his honor (college player of the year) because he was, ‘tired,’ and for turning down an invitation to join Rachel Robinson and President Clinton in New York after he won The Masters on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s Major League debut. (To Tiger’s credit, he wrote Mrs. Robinson a couple of years later to apologize for not being there).

Tiger and I had a lengthy dinner in 1998 during which we discussed a lot of this and agreed to disagree. If you were to check what I’ve written about him through the years, I’ve said a LOT of good things about him too—especially about his golf which is, clearly, unassailable. For Wilbon—or anyone—to imply that my criticism of him since November 27th has anything to do with the Rocco book is just silly and false. I TOLD Rocco when he approached me about the book that Tiger wasn’t going to talk, certainly not to me, probably not to anyone. It was ROCCO who was angry when he didn’t talk, not me.

I don’t have an axe to grind with Tiger. He’s been great for the game of golf. Watching him play is amazing. But I’m not going to find ways to defend him: “no one cares, it’s no one’s business…” just so he’ll call me by name when he returns to the tour.

Finally to Nathan: Thanks for the explanation of your question to Mike. For the record, my regular Sunday column has appeared in The Post the last two Sundays. As I’ve said, The Post isn’t ESPN. In fact, if you listen to Tony’s radio show he often says, “I love Sally (Jenkins) but her column today was ridiculous.” In fact, he often says it to Sally. Unlike some people, she LAUGHS about it…

Finally: One last time on the “Junior,” nickname. Tony put it on me 30 years ago after I first wrote a long piece on John McEnroe. Because we got along—and because I was the youngest guy on the sports staff at the time—he put “Junior,” on me because that was McEnroe’s nickname. I’ve pleaded with him since, I guess I turned 40, to drop it because at 23 it was fine, at my age now I find it silly. He can’t stop himself—so I deal with it. When strangers use it I find it not so much offensive as disrespectful. I don’t call anyone I don’t know by a nickname. To me, that’s between friends unless the person calls himself that as in Don Imus calling himself, “The I-Man.”


Anonymous said...

I can understand your frustration with strangers calling you "Junior". It is disrespectful and inappropriate. But I must say this: I listen to Tony's radio show every day without fail, and he ONLY calls you Junior. And everyone else there calls you Junior. In my head, I call you Junior just because of that. Its ingrained now (and in my head its Tony's voice, not mine that calls you that). :)
I promise if I ever have the privilege to meet you and be introduced I will be whispering to myself (call him John, call him John, call him John) right up until the moment we shake hands.

JDM said...

Has John ever explained in this blog exactly what his problem was with Earl Woods? That's why I think he sometimes reports opinions as facts, that he'll say things but then not always explain why. Otherwise I think this is a great blog.

StandandDeliver said...

Feinstein truly believes his opinions ARE facts - hence his difficulty in comprehending the criticism when it is pointed out to him.

If he believes something, there is no other way. His arrogance knows no bounds, and he is the very definition of intolerance. This trait has been extremely detrimental to his career and to his personal relationships. It's enough to feel sorry for him - if so many of his the opinions he espouses as facts weren't frequently so wrong.

Tim said...

I must not be in the norm here because I don't read his opinions on Tiger (or anyone else) coming off as fact. He writes demonstrably, like most good writers do, but I don't confuse that as fact where the blurry topics (such as someone's personality) don't have a right or wrong. I don't know how a writer, or media guy like those on ESPN, Fox Sports, sports radio, etc, could ever get by with wishy washy statements like 'I think', 'he may be a good guy', 'she may be a bad person', etc. These guys have opinions that they tell directly, and while I some I agree with and some I disagree with, this whole opinion vs. fact debate is ludicrous.

I like to read Feinstein, and others (Peter King, Dan Jenkins, just to name a few national guys), and come to my own blurry conclusion.

Thanks for doing this blog said...

Congratulations to both you and Wilbon. Instead of talking about what you or he wrote this week, we're talking about what names you called each other. Come on, you're both better than that.

Jeremy said...

I was driving around in my car last night around 6:50 and turned to WFAN-660 (I live in central PA) and heard John discussing Rutgers run in the 1970? NIT. I love AM radio!

Anonymous said...

I have several other nicknames none quite so nice as what JF'tweaks' about. I love reading his stuff because it's completely upside down with reality.

What's important is JF really believes what he's writing is right and true..that's the genius. He actually believes he's not biased regarding Tiger Woods or the other enemies and people who have shunted him or slighted him over the years.

It's everyone else's fault..Tiger, Wilbon, Georgetown.. oh the humanity! I'm just a Columnist..yeah o.k.

Why John Daly is popular is beyond me. Sorry I don't find JD that interesting. Why should I care about this guy. He's the Accident on the side of the road. I say keep driving...dont' waste your time.

Ed - Bethesda said...

Look, behavior on the tour is not a major problem I am sure compared to other major sports golf could be considered the model of deportment. Any attempt to make it a big problem is just foolish. Certainly JD is an aberration and of course there are difficulties in administrating fines to multi-millionaires. Regarding Tiger's behavior I have only heard Tom Watson voice displeasure and of course you many, many, many times. More disturbing with Tiger is his distain for fans especially youngsters. John, I would expect that once you criticize a man's dead father, you future access might be limited. Your axe grinding is deafening!

bevo said...

The Patriot League men's tournament gets underway. I have not seen Navy or Army play this year. Oddly enough, Time Warner does not bother to add the PL package.

A thought borne out of ignorance: why doesn't Army and/or Navy run either the old Princeton offense or the Grinnell offense? In The Civil War, you talk about why the service academies run the option. I believe you criticized Todd Graham for running an offense that was ill-suited for Army's personnel.

Wouldn't the same logic hold in basketball?

Mark said...

Can someone please explain to me how a professional golfer can be SECRETLY suspended? Does he just not show up at say, the U.S. Open, without anyone asking about it? Am I wrong for thinking this is about the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard of regarding sports discipline? Sure, I can see someone getting fined secretly but how in God's name can you keep a suspension secret? John, or someone, please help me here.

Anonymous said...

"....when I compared his father to Stefano Capriati (which, in retrospect may have been unfair to Capriati)"....seriously, John?? Is this another one of your "facts" or simply your opinion? Last I checked, Jennifer Capriati was getting busted for marijuana possession and petty shoplifting (both illegal) while Tiger Woods got busted for multiple affairs (not illegal but immoral) and became the best in his game while becoming the first athlete to earn a billion dollars in gross what exactly is your point? Whatever it is Earl did to you, you really need to let it go. The man is six feet under and isn't here to defend himself against your "facts". There's always three sides to a story...your story, the other person's story and the truth which usually lies somewhere in between.

Glen Dowell said...

Ok, folks, it seems like a lot of you need some brushing up on basic writing. When a writer says something like "which, in retrospect, may have been unfair to Capriati", that's opinion, and there is no attempt to present it as anything else. So, where you get the idea that JF is trying to pass that off as fact is beyond me.

By the way, "anonymous", when you write that "it's completely upside down with reality.", you're passing your opinion off as fact.

Anonymous said...

What's up, JUNIOR?

Anonymous said...

re: Glen - well, if that's the case he should have stated "in my opinion" just to be clear. You just never know with Feinstein what he states to be an opinion and what he claims to be a fact...and I know I'm not the only person that feels this way.

John said...

To StanDandeLiver...

When you wrote "Feinstein truly believes his opinions ARE facts ...", was that a fact about his opinions, or an opinion about his opinions, or merely an observation about Feinstein's opinions of his own opinions?
With all that vitriol for his writing, why do you keep coming back here to read it? Perhaps you would be better served if you just think of all of his blog as opinions...then you can agree or disagree without getting an ulcer. But that's just my opinion. Cheers! said...

I like listening to John; and I agree with him about John Daly, I have stopped listening to him when it comes to Tiger Woods. While he may speak the truth in his description of Tiger's actions, it is obvious that he has a strong dislike for the guy. When ever he speaks about Tiger it sounds like he would rather be getting a root canal. As such I doubt that anything will come from him other than a bone he has to pick.