Billy Payne disappointed in Tiger Woods's 'egregious' behavior

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post staff writer
Thursday, April 8, 2010; D03

AUGUSTA, GA. -- Masters chairman Billy Payne on Wednesday delivered a stinging assessment of how Tiger Woods's off-course behavior had disappointed fans -- particularly children -- a day before Woods is set to make a return to competitive golf after nearly five months off to deal with upheaval in his personal life.

In his annual pre-tournament address to media at Augusta National, Payne acknowledged Woods's position in the history of the game -- placing him alongside legends Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer -- yet all but scolded him for his widely reported infidelity, emphasizing that Woods must show his sincere commitment to change if he is to win back fans.

"As he now says himself, he forgot in the process to remember that with fame and fortune comes responsibility, not invisibility," Payne said. "It is not simply the degree of his conduct that is so egregious here; it is the fact that he disappointed all of us, and more importantly, our kids and our grandkids.

"Our hero did not live up to the expectations of the role model we saw for our children."

Payne's remarks came at the end of his opening remarks, and were not solicited by reporters.

"Is there a way forward?" Payne asked. "I hope, yes. I think, yes. But certainly his future will never again be measured only by his performance against par, but measured by the sincerity of his efforts to change."

New Nike commercial

Nike aired a new TV commercial Wednesday featuring Tiger Woods and the voice of his late father, an edgy move that calls out his personal problems on the eve of his return to competitive golf. The ad aired on ESPN and the Golf Channel.

In the stark, black-and-white ad, a solemn Woods looks directly into the camera without speaking while a recording of his late father is heard, speaking about taking responsibility.

Noticeable change

Augusta National has undergone a series of dramatic changes in the last decade, but the most dramatic this year is the opening of a new practice range -- which is 400 yards long, as opposed to the old, 260-yard facility -- that includes an elaborate short-game area. But there were only tweaks to the actual course, most notably rebuilding the greens at Nos. 2 and 15 and shrinking the greenside bunkers at the second, a reachable par 5 that now should yield even more eagles.

But there are no current plans for any more major overhauls.

"The truth is we think the golf course is good right now," Payne said, "and I don't think there is a plan, a further plan . . . for us to adapt the golf course any differently than it is today." . . .

South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen won the annual par-3 contest Wednesday afternoon, beating Italian teenager Matteo Manassero -- who, at 16, is the youngest player in the field -- as well as David Duval, Jerry Pate and K.J. Choi by two strokes.

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