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Was Williams wrong for tossing camera into pond?

12/11/2002

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- With $200,000 on the line, Tiger
Woods dug his feet in the bunker, waggled his sand wedge over the
ball and was at the top of his swing when the silence was pierced
by a nerve-racking noise he has come to despise.

Click!

Even more outrageous was the sound that followed.

Splash!

Not long after someone took a premature picture of Woods at the
Skins Game, caddie Steve Williams took the law -- or the lens, in
this case -- into his own hands and deposited the camera in the pond
surrounding the 18th green at Landmark Golf Club.

The question is: Who crossed the line?

Does a caddie have the right to destroy someone's property?

''Just because he's Tiger Woods' caddie doesn't give him the
right to do that,'' Vijay Singh said. ''It may have been spur of
the moment, but I cannot say it was good what he did. If my caddie
did that, I'd make him fish it out of the lake.''

Did the fan get what he deserved?

No one knew who the guy was, only that he was not authorized to
have a camera or be stationed inside the ropes. Policies make it
abundantly clear that cameras are not allowed once the tournament
starts, although that has never stopped anyone before.

''Did Stevie throw the camera away? I've been wanting to do that
for a long time,'' Davis Love III said. ''I've taken them away from
people, but I haven't smashed one or thrown one yet. I think it's
fair.''

It was not clear whether Williams would be fined or ordered to
reimburse the man, if he ever comes forward. Photojournalists who
saw the camera said it was worth about $7,000.

Any fine -- and Woods said he expects one -- is assessed to the
player, who then passes it along to the caddie. But not this time.

They put up with a lot, an awful lot. I
suppose it would be a shame if his late great aunt had been on the
film, as well.
"

-- Colin Montgomerie

Woods said he would pick up the tab.

This is not the first time Woods has defended his Kiwi caddie.

During the ''Showdown at Sherwood'' three years ago, a PGA Tour
official told Williams he could not wear shorts, even though the
temperature was pushing 90 degrees. When Williams refused to
change, the official told the caddie he would no longer work on the
PGA Tour.

''Guess I'll be playing in Europe next year,'' Woods said, and
that was the end of that.

In the case of the camera, Woods had reason to stand by his man.

He had to back off twice because of cameras on the opening hole
at the British Open, where Woods was going for the third leg of the
Grand Slam. An early click on the final hole in Ireland cost him a
chance at his first bogey-free tournament. There were so many
cameras in Germany that Woods felt as if he was model on a runway.

And those are just a few examples from this year.

''He backs off a lot more than you realize,'' Mark O'Meara said.

The national photojournalists are guilty by association. The
early clicks almost always come from those who don't cover golf,
such as the Japanese photographer who got Woods on the first
fairway at Muirfield and was puzzled when he was asked to leave.

The real problem stems from fans who come to the course with
cameras, from marshals who spend more time watching golf than
policing the crowds, and from tour officials who fail to enforce
their policies.

''We've had poor camera control on the PGA Tour, and it's
jeopardizing the integrity of the championship,'' said Phil
Mickelson.

That's not to say the answer is tossing cameras into the water.

''I don't think I would have handled it that way,'' Mickelson
said. ''But I can understand the frustration he must have felt. I
don't have a problem with it.''

Woods is not the only victim of early clicks, but no one hears
more. He still remembers the camera that clicked behind him as he
teed off on the 18th hole at the 1997 Masters, a drive that wound
up 60 yards left of the fairway.

''Thank God I had a big enough cushion,'' said Woods, who was
leading by 12 shots and made par to set the Masters scoring record.

Colin Montgomerie is known for his rabbit ears, whether it's a
camera or an unruly fan, and even he defers to Woods when it comes
to distractions on the course.

''Who am I to complain?'' Monty said. ''He puts up with 20 times
more than anyone else, and he does it so well. Every time I play
with him, he has to back off. Look at the Open this year. Cameras
were all over him.''

There weren't that many at the Skins game, but there was one too
many.

Click!

''Not in my swing!'' Woods yelled, cursing and glaring as his
ball ran 15 feet by the hole.

That's when Williams snapped.

''I walked over to him and grabbed the camera,'' Williams said.
''He put up a little resistance, but not much.''

Was Williams wrong?

''They put up with a lot, an awful lot,'' Montgomerie said. ''I
suppose it would be a shame if his late great aunt had been on the
film, as well.''