Cut Tiger a break

IAN HUTCHINSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:41 AM ET

TORONTO - It wasnít visibly detectable when the alleged faux pas took place, but apparently there were some raised eyebrows when Bill Paul, tournament director for the RBC Canadian Open, popped off at media day last week at St. Georgeís Golf and Country Club, the site of this yearís national championship.

As he is known to do, Paul cracked a joke when he was asked the predictable question about a weak field with the Canadian Open played on the heels of the British Open.

The question came despite the unveiling of solid list of commitments for this yearís event, so it could only be assumed that, in some minds, any field is automatically weak if you donít have Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson there, which is still a possibility if not a probability this year.

ďHaving walked with Tiger for two holes at The Players, I think we will have the premier players here. He wasnít hitting it too well,Ē said Paul, who was hardly breaking any news about Tiger, post-scandal and post-injury.

Woods has admitted as much himself, but apparently Paulís joke was taken in some media quarters as being a putdown that could mean the Open will never see Tiger again, which has been the case since 2001 anyway. As a result, a non-story turned into a story, either real or imagined, in the following days.

Perhaps, those who were shocked by Paulís joke suffered a sudden reflection back to another perceived slight of Woods by another Canadian.

Calgaryís Stephen Ames was asked about his chances against Woods at the 2006 Accenture Match Play Championship and Ames responded: ďAnything can happen, especially where heís hitting the ball.Ē

Woods was spraying the ball at the time, but despite Ames being correct in his assessment, his comments were motivation for Tiger in a lopsided 9-and-8 victory, so even the most innocuous statement can come back to haunt you.

The difference is that Woods using Amesí comments against him came in a competitive setting, so you go with whatever floats your boat in order to win.

If Woods plans to use Paulís comment against him ó and thereís no indication he will even hear about it ó then such a backlash could only be regarded as petty.

That decision, if it ever came out, would fly in the face of the kinder, gentler Tiger that he and his handlers tried to project when he made his return at the Masters, especially since Paul offered Woods a sponsorís exemption to play in the Open shortly after he turned pro in 1996.

The reaction to Paulís quip will be short-lived. If Woods even finds out about it, his reaction likely will be more of a good-natured retaliation back at Paul, who heís known for years, and the kindly tournament director serves up plenty of material.

This story has no fuel, but lots of gas.

For some reason, there are still some who believe that tournament organizers, media and other players have to tippy-toe around Tiger, but if he should take it as far as boycotting a national championship out of spite, then let him. Itís not like weíve gotten used to seeing him over the past decade anyway.

This yearís Open is shaping up as a memorable one with a solid field on a classic golf course at St. Georgeís.


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