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PGA Rookie Etiquette 101: Don't Call Out Tiger. Ever


Scott Stallings's business is golf. He's blogging for BNET as he travels about 300 days a year playing on the PGA Tour. Click here to find all of Scott's posts.
Earlier this week a PGA rookie (and friend of mine) made the headlines -- and unfortunately it had nothing to do with his golf performance. The story in short: Brendan Steele told Sports Illustrated that he didn't think Tiger "gave it everything" on Sunday when he played with him at Torrey Pines. "Once it started going in the wrong direction, I don't think it had his full attention."

Big mistake.

The newspapers and golf blogs went wild with it. Here are some of the headlines that showed up shortly after:

Now I know Brendan and I have no doubt that he meant no ill will toward Tiger. But it's a good lesson for all of us rookies playing on the PGA Tour for the first time.

Unlike the lower level events in golf where guys are used to working hard and not getting a whole lot of attention from the press, on the PGA Tour the players are the event. What happened with Brendan couldn't be a clearer example of that.

Tiger is the face of golf -- we all know that. So if you play with him, talk to him, or even stand in line behind him when he's getting a sandwich, you're going to be sucked into the Tiger vortex with all kinds of reporters wanting to know any scrap of detail you're willing to give them. Unfortunately, the few sentences Brendan said gave them enough ammo to turn him into the story. Now, he's no longer just a rookie on tour; he's going to be known as the one who called out Tiger. No matter how well he plays, he probably won't be able to escape that reputation.

Shane Bacon over at the Yahoo blog Devil Ball wrote that 18 months ago saying such a thing about Tiger used to be a line you never wanted to cross. Vijay Singh's caddie and Stephen Ames learned that lesson the hard way. But now Bacon says that given everything that has happened with Tiger, maybe things have changed.

I disagree completely. Everyone on tour jokes that there's an unwritten code of conduct: You never call out the big guns out of respect for what they have done -- and especially not after you've only played three tournaments on the PGA Tour.

(Tiger Woods photo courtesy of Flick user Keith Allison, CC 2.0)