Tiger ticks off puckheads

BILL LANKHOF -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:26 AM ET

Tiger Woods never has been big on Canada. The GPS on his complimentary Buick, not to mention the guidance system on his brain, doesn't work when it comes to things north of the 49th parallel.

He wouldn't be caught on a fairway north of Buffalo to start with unless some sponsor waived an appearance fee his direction.

But not only doesn't he come here to promote his own game, now he's going around dumping all over Canada's game.

The world's top golfer on a teleconference call to promote August's PGA championship at Oakland Hills in suburban Detroit was asked if he was rooting for Detroit or Pittsburgh in the Stanley Cup final.

He laughed. Then he sent a high, hard one under Gary Bettman's chin. "I don't really care. Let's talk about the Dodgers," Woods said. "I don't think anybody really watches hockey any more."

Horrors! Readers are scandalized. Hockey fans affronted. Dissed. We are outraged -- so upset we could stomp bunnies and kick the puppy.

Okay, maybe not outraged or the puppy thing. But a golfer dumping all over hockey's value as a spectator sport is definitely the pot calling the kettle black -- and no, I don't mean that in a racist kind of way so spare me the e-mail.

When Woods says people don't watch hockey, well, that's just not right. Just yesterday TSN signed a six-year deal with the NHL. In the U.S., Games 1 to 3 have been the highest-rated and most-watched opening games of a Stanley Cup final since 2002. The rating for Game 3 represented an 87% increase over last year's Game 3 between Anaheim and Ottawa.

John Updike once wrote that: "Golf appeals to the idiot in us and the child. Just how childlike golf players become is proven by their frequent inability to count past five." And, Tiger just proved his point. Unfortunately.

Hockey doesn't deserve to get dissed by a corporate mega-shill who makes millions from a game that involves a lot of walking and bad arithmetic and was invented by a bunch of guys running around a cow pasture in skirts. As a sport, it barely exceeds the wussy quotient. I mean there's the Penguins' Ryan Malone taking a hunk of vulcanized rubber in the face and he barely blinks, but every time Woods takes a shot the world has to stop; a camera clicks and he goes into a hissy-fit. Someone in the next county sneezes and he has to call a marshal.

Hockey may leave an impression that doesn't extend beyond Wayne Gretzky's shadow in Tiger's California home, but in Canada it is the embodiment of our national holy trinity: Godliness, cleanliness and the Stanley Cup. But, not necessarily in that order.

Not that Woods would know, or understand, considering he hasn't played in a Canadian Open since 2001 at Royal Montreal. There's always an excuse -- ahhh, I mean a reason. Injuries. The wife won't let him come out and play. Not to mention, Woods has events like the British Open, or whatever, the week before and everyone knows those four-day work weeks are just so-o-o-o tiring. And, besides, it's a hassle getting the corporate jet through customs.

Okay, last year he returned to Montreal and was beaten one-on-one by Mike Weir in the Presidents Cup. But the only other time he ever shows up is for some corporate gig. Smile, nod, pick up the cheque and get back to the land of the free and the home of The Golf Channel. So, I'm not sure how this makes him an expert on who is watching hockey. Even in Detroit, Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final had a higher local TV viewership than Game 5 of the NBA playoff between the Pistons and Celtics. So, somebody must be watching.

If Tiger wants to talk about people not watching sports maybe he should check out the TV ratings of this year's Masters. Despite Woods being in contention, the Neilsen Ratings listed an 8% drop in viewership for the final two rounds. Which just goes to show that golf, as Mark Twain once noted, is merely: "A game that ruined a perfectly good walk." But he probably was just being kind.


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