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Tuesday, May 20, 2003
Welcome to whine country

By Jim Caple
Page 2 columnist

Some people give Vijay Singh credit for at least having the guts to publicly speak his mind on Annika Sorenstam, but not me. The way I see it, he was only doing what comes natural to most professional male golfers. He was whining. And if there is one thing that's become clear from this saga, it's that golfers are the biggest whiners in all sports.

Vijay Singh
Vijay was just exercising his PGA right to whine.
Is there anything these guys don't complain about?

The greens are too fast. The greens are too slow. The rough is too thick. The fairway is too narrow. The sandtraps are too deep. The pin placement is too difficult. The gallery is too loud. It's too wet. It's too dry. It's too hot. It's too cold. It's too humid. It's too windy. There is a girl on the course.

And God forbid if anyone in the gallery coughs.

After decades of careful study, scientists have determined that sound frequencies above 20,000 Hz can only be heard by dogs, whales and golfers on the PGA Tour. If a tree falls in the woods, it makes a sound that can be heard as far away as the 15th green on Khatmandu National. Want to cure the deaf? Give them a PGA card.

Nomar Garciaparra has to step in against Roger Clemens with a stadium full of Yankees fans screaming at him, not knowing whether he is going to get mid-90s heat near his head or a breaking ball away. Yet he still is somehow able to perform his job. But let a fan so much as clear his throat while a golfer lines up to putt a golf ball that is just lying there and he'll scream, "FOR GOD SAKES, CAN'T A MAN HAVE A MOMENT OF PEACE!!!" and have him taken to Guantanamo Bay.

Even Tiger Woods, the only golfer who approaches the game as a competitive sport instead of a country club recreation, throws a fit when a photographer dares to snap a picture during his backswing. He is supposedly the greatest golfer in history and yet, as with everyone else on the tour, the sound of a camera clicking is TOO FRIGGIN' LOUD for his precious concentration. When a photographer committed this sin last year, Tiger reprimanded him while his caddy grabbed the camera and tossed it into a water hazard. I mean, really. The Soviets didn't moan as much about our U2 planes snapping shots of their missile installations.

Hit a bad shot? It's never the golfer's fault. The caddy is always to blame for choosing the wrong club. Imagine if they tried that excuse in other sports.

I wouldn't have struck out with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, but the batboy handed me a 34-32 Louisville Slugger when he should have handed me a 34-31 Maple Rideau Crusher.

Remember the Casey Martin controversy? One would think it would be hard to be against a talented young golfer with a debilitating bone disease asking for permission to merely ride his cart on the course. But the whiners of the golf world did, complaining that a golf cart would provide him with an unfair advantage. When the Supreme Court sided with Martin, Jack Nicklaus bitched that "walking" was a crucial part of the sport.

And remember, this was coming from people who have caddies carry their clubs for them.

Casey Martin
Only the PGA could find a way to whine about Casey Martin.
It was no surprise there was so little support for Martin from the golf establishment. If you ever need someone to back you up during a rough moment, you can always count on the golfers to deliver a polite "It's not my decision," while hiding by the 19th hole.

Their latest line in the sand is Sorenstam's exemption to play in this week's Colonial Open. Imagine, a woman on the same course! The next thing you know, they'll want to vote.

The popular refrain for golfers explaining their opposition to Sorenstam is that she didn't "earn" her way onto the Tour the way they had. That she is taking a spot away from a deserving male golfer. This is ridiculous, because the whole point of an exemption is to invite deserving golfers who, for whatever reason, otherwise couldn't qualify the way everyone else did. Lifetime exemptions are why Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer still get to play Augusta.

Singh, realizing he had nothing to gain and much to lose by playing this week, ducked out of the Colonial, blaming his decision, of course, on his wife. I promised her I would take a week off if I won the tournament. Tiger won't be playing there, either.

With that talent drain, Sorenstam not only will make the cut this week, she'll probably finish in the Top 20. But if she does play poorly, we might see her blame it on the pressure or the weather or the greens or her caddy.

And if she truly is PGA-quality, she'll blame it on David Duval for leaving the toilet seat up in the porta-johns.

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.