COMMENTARY | Tiger Woods' poor attitude at The 2012 Masters was downright embarrassing - so much so, that it was uncomfortable to watch, especially for his fans.
Woods' club-kicking incident has been well-documented and scrutinized in the days following his dismal Round 2 performance at Augusta National, in which he shot a 3-over-par 75. After hitting a shot that sailed roughly 40 yards offline on the 16th hole with just a 9-iron, Woods dropped his club down in anger and kicked it several feet back toward the gallery for an encore. He was clearly on a downward spiral at that point and simply could not recover, finishing 5-over for the tournament.
If you're Tiger Woods, you just can't do that. You cannot throw, kick, drop, heave, or flick any golf club in anger. Not anymore, given the circumstances of the past three years.
Woods needs to clean up his act, and he's smart enough to know that he needs to do so for more than just his public image. He's being scorned for his attitude throughout the debacle at Augusta National and rightly so. As an ambassador of the game, he's showing mental weakness that is a far cry from the signature psychological edge the old Tiger used to display during each one of his 14 major victories.
His mind is in a wandering state, and he's gotten away from having fun on the golf course. He needs to get back to that for the sake of his game.
Major championship victories don't come to players who are necessarily well-liked. A clear head and mental toughness are what's necessary to excel on golf's greatest of stages. Right now, Tiger Woods has neither of those, and it's very easy to see.
Beyond just the club-kicking, Woods' demonstrative displays of bitter anger at one of the most sacred venues in golf's history show that he has no control and no regard for the way he carries himself. If he truly means what he said in his famous apology in February 2010, then he will act accordingly and at the very least refrain from making a complete fool of himself.
To his credit, if he deserves any, he did apologize again after the latest incident. Unfortunately, it was not substantial enough given the level of disrespect he displayed.
I've often been on the other side, defending Woods and explaining that anybody who's ever played golf, including the best players in the world, have done things they regret. I was even debating turning this very commentary into rhetoric that chastised his critics for being too harsh.
But how do you defense the indefensible? Tiger has no recourse to explain his actions as anything but deplorable. As a fan of the game, I wasn't just disgusted and turned off, but disappointed - in a way that parents often are when their children make poor decisions.
Woods made an awful decision on Saturday, Moving Day, at The Masters in 2012. He chose not only to misbehave, but to totally abandon all self-control and discipline, all of which he promised to show more of when he faced the world following his fall from grace. The lifestyle change that needed to accompany the promises he made clearly hasn't taken place. If it had, even a struggling Woods would have shown restraint.
Sometimes, 'sorry' doesn't cut it. In this case, the golf world will have to hear more than empty words in order to completely forgive him. The segment of the population that supports Woods is dwindling with each and every expletive and club-throw.
I wanted Woods to win for the good of the game. Bubba Watson will make a great Masters champion, but no one can duplicate what a Woods win would do for the sport. Ironically, Woods and Watson are friends. Maybe Watson could give him some advice on how to conduct himself when things go wrong. Bubba's been through plenty of adversity both on and off the course.
In golf and in life, adversity will play a role, no matter who's swinging the club.
The worst thing about the bad attitude of Tiger Woods at Augusta was the fact that despite his issues, he still has a healthy network of supporters. After showing disrespect to his predecessors, peers, and fans via his actions, he undoubtedly lost some of even his most supportive followers.
Who could blame them?
He made arguably the best day at The Masters painful to witness. The golf was bad, but the antics were more awkward and uncomfortable to watch than an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Prior to this display, much of the criticism was unfair and misdirected. Now, it seems justified.
Golf is the ultimate gentlemen's game, and though there have been notable players who have not been perfect, Tiger Woods has a responsibility to respect the game more than any other PGA TOUR and world-class player. He has greater responsibility because he is who he is, a living legend and one of the greatest ever to pick up a golf club.
No one knows what the catalyst will be for Woods to turn his mental game around, but there needs to be something to facilitate a change. He has to figure out much more than a golf swing in order to become the man every sports fan knew as the greatest player in the world. It will start from a new mental approach, but in the end, it will only manifest itself one way - via his actions.
Let's hope for his sake and that of the game of golf, he figures it out.
Michael C. Jones is a Yahoo! Featured Contributor in Sports and PGA professional and has followed the career of Tiger Woods since his emergence on the PGA TOUR in 1997. For more insight, follow Michael on Twitter @MikeJonesTweets