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Tiger Woods and Justin Thomas

The biggest loser in the furore of Tiger Woods’ tampon prank? Golf

For all the good that is going on in the background to close the gender divide that haunts our sport, Tom Irwin explains how its most influential figure is once again all of us

 

I am not offended by Tiger Woods handing Justin Thomas a tampon. I find it cringey, and weird, but not personally offensive. Woods is not a comedian, I don’t share his sense of humour, but what he finds funny is no business of mine.

What is absolutely my business though is golf, and what I find offensive is the rank hypocrisy of our collective reaction to an objectively sexist joke, made carelessly in the public domain by our single most high-profile figure.

You can absolutely dismiss the act itself as “lad’s banter” and a “harmless joke between friends”, that is to judge it as it was no doubt intended. You can also forgive yourself for wanting to hand Woods some latitude. He is my hero, he is your hero, he redefined our sport.

For men like me there has always been Tiger, and we have been brought up like this, haven’t we? Men in our middle age, tossing away comments like “you catch like a girl”, “don’t be such a woman”, “halfway for ladies”, “did you drop your lipstick?” and so on. What we mean is that women are worse at sport than men. That is why we use it as a way to ridicule other men.

Your mate Dave – or, in this case, Justin – are the butt of the joke, but not the subject of the joke. Both Dave and Justin are in on the joke, just as you and Tiger are. The real joke is that women are worse than men at hitting a golf ball.

Sexist then. Undoubtedly. So, what of the hypocrisy?

Here are a list of some of things that are happening right now to try and drag our sport into the 21st century by levelling up the playing field for women and girls in golf: The R&A Women & Girls Charter, the advent of ability-based tees, Women & Girls Golf Week, Girls Golf Rocks, and innovative mixed tournaments on the DP World Tour. Hell, even the Saudi-backed Aramco series. At the same time of the month as Tiger was handing over a Tampax, the LET was playing its biggest ever event in the Kingdom.

Yet our most high-profile ambassador, one of probably two current male golfers that transcend our sport, makes a sexist joke during a comeback which the entire world of sport is watching, and how do we react?

At best, with silence, in some number giggling along, and at worst abusively cancelling those who dare to criticise.

Women’s Hour led with the story on its Monday morning show. The presenters and their 3.7 million listeners are not living in our echo chamber where Woods can do no wrong, where his comebacks are lauded, but we never look too deep into why he keeps requiring comebacks.

They are living in a world where women are equal, independent, and well capable of cancelling a sport in which they are clearly not wanted.

But read below the line on Twitter of any commentator, amateur or professional, who has politely questioned Woods’ behaviour and you are met with the underbelly of latent sexism that continues to hold us back as a sport.

We can draw the curtains on this and hope no one notices, but you can’t hide the bruises.

Calm down, love. It’s a joke, sweetheart. Stop getting your knickers in a twist. They all hit it farther than you. You are a girl, you wouldn’t understand. He meant that women don’t statistically hit is as far as men. Keep telling them lads and they will carry on playing on Tuesdays and sit in their own bar. Accept your pat on the bum when they make a net par in the mixed foursomes.

Our callow leader hasn’t grown up in the 25-plus years we have been watching him, so what hope is there for the rest of us?

Let us know your thoughts on Twitter.

Tom Irwin

Tom Irwin

Tom is a lifetime golfer, now over 30 years playing the game. 2023 marks 10 years in golf publishing and he is still holding down a + handicap at Alwoodley in Leeds. He has played over 600 golf courses, and has been a member of at least four including his first love Louth, in Lincolnshire. Tom likes unbranded clothing, natural fibres, and pencil bags. Seacroft in Lincolnshire is where it starts and ends.

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