By Jason Whitlock
Special to Page 2

So Wednesday afternoon I'm doing a fill-in for Wilbon on "PTI." Kornheiser, of course, is nervous. Oh, he respects my game. But he's well aware of my reputation: moody, flamboyant, petulant, irrational, prone to throw down the race card when you least expect it, capable of offending any and everybody on any and every topic.

So while we're prepping, the producer hands us a topic: Tiger Woods, the leader in the clubhouse Sunday night, left the PGA Championship long before Phil Mickelson, Thomas Bjorn and Steve Elkington finished their final rounds Monday morning.

Tiger quit. Packed his bags Sunday night, boarded his private jet and bounced back to Florida before he was officially eliminated from winning his 11th major title. Turns out, it was the absolute right thing to do. Lefty, Elkington and Bjorn all finished ahead of Woods.

But this could've turned ugly for Tiger. The world's No. 1 golfer could've morphed into Randy Moss, the man who walked off the football field with time left on the clock. Had Mickelson and Co. choked, Tiger would've forfeited his opportunity to participate in a three-hole playoff. He conceivably could've given away his 11th major.

Kornheiser was incensed. He labeled Tiger's move "indefensible" during our show prep.

"Wilbon would find a way to defend Tiger," Kornheiser said to no one in particular.

It was Kornheiser's not-so-subtle way of challenging me. Everybody knows that Wilbon is a card-carrying member of the Jordan, Tiger and Barkley posse. Wilbon writes a new book about Barkley every two to three weeks. Wilbon's the only legit, respected journalist with access to both Jordan and Tiger, the two most important athletes since Ali.

Kornheiser's point was this: Wednesday's show would work better if I could find a way to defend Tiger.

I'm embarrassed to admit, despite being given two hours to prepare, I couldn't come up with a solid justification for Tiger's leaving Baltusrol Golf Club before being officially eliminated. Trust me, there's no bigger Tiger Woods apologist than yours truly. I absolutely hated watching golf on television BT (before Tiger). Now golf's four majors are like four separate Super Bowl weekends.

Wednesday was a once-in-a-lifetime chance for me to defend Tiger on national TV and perhaps brownnose my way into his inner circle. I failed.

Dejected but determined, I returned to my room at the Grand Hyatt intent on crafting a defense of Tiger. I came up with the top 10 reasons Tiger flew home early from the PGA Championship:

10. Had an early Monday morning, driveway workout scheduled with personal trainer, Terrell Owens.

9. Wife Elin complained that if Tiger missed trash day one more time, he'd be sleeping on the couch.

8. Muggy and wet conditions made him uncomfortable looking at Lefty "nip out" in sweaty golf shirt.

7. Had already printed out his "A" group boarding pass for Southwest flight.

6. Knew that CBS would demand that golfers fly to Florida to face Tiger in a three-hole playoff rather than televise play without him.

5. Concerned that Elin would screw up TiVo-ing "Entourage" and his Jersey motel didn't carry HBO.

4. Dined and dashed at the Bada Bing following his Sunday round and figured he better get out of town before Tony Soprano sent Paulie Walnuts to collect.

3. Wanted to donate a major championship to one of his "rivals," so that history will say he dominated strong competition.

2. Mondays are his only free day to veg out in the basement and play Madden '06.

1. Figured he'd have time to fly back to Jersey while Lanny Wadkins, Peter Kostis and David Feherty whispered and exaggerated about the "incredible lie" Tiger's private jet would have to dig out from under it in order to take flight and land within 100 miles of Baltusrol.

Jason Whitlock is a regular columnist for The Kansas City Star. His newspaper is celebrating his 10 years as a columnist with the publishing of Jason's first book, "Love Him, Hate Him: 10 Years of Sports, Passion and Kansas City." It's a collection of Jason's most memorable, thought-provoking and funny columns over the past decade. You can purchase the book at TheKansasCityStore.com. Jason can be reached by e-mail at ballstate68@aol.com.




Jason_Whitlock
Jason
Whitlock
APOLOGY NOT ACCEPTED