Tiger Woods has expressed his remorse over a prank that has divided the sporting world, with the 15-time major winner forced to apologise after being condemned by fans. Woods came under fire after playing a prank on good friend Justin Thomas in the first round of the Genesis Invitational. Woods - making his long-awaited return to the PGA Tour at the Riviera Country Club on Thursday (Friday AEDT) - was paired alongside World No. 7 Thomas and World No. 2 Rory McIlroy for his opening round.
The 15-time major winner produced a late flurry of birdies on the opening day to steal many of the headlines, but it was his prank on Thomas that caused the biggest stir. The 47-year-old had already outdriven his compatriot on more than one occasion when Thomas put his tee shot into the rough, just off the fairway at the ninth.
Sensing his moment to have a laugh at Thomas' expense, Woods caught up to his rival as they made their way down the ninth fairway, before slipping a tampon packet in the 29-year-old's hand. Thomas knocked it away as soon as he realised what Woods had slipped into his hand, before both players shared a laugh as they strolled down the ninth.
— Banks (@BarstoolBanks) February 17, 2023
The incident quickly divided the sporting world, with many supporters claiming it was a sign the competitive Tiger Woods of old was back. Others simply thought it was hilarious that Woods randomly carried a tampon around in his pocket in order to play the prank.
Critics such as Sky Sports presenter Sarah Stirk called it a "crass" and "unacceptable" stunt from Woods, whom she accused of reinforcing sexist stereotypes. While many on social media found it to be harmless fun, others insisisted it did little to lift the stigma around menstruation for women.
Tiger Woods stunt divides sporting world
"I'm a female working in sport. I'm passionate and love the game of golf. I think we're all striving for equality and we've all seen massive inroads which everybody is doing when it comes to promoting women's sport, media exposure and increase in participation levels," Stirk said.
"We want women's sport to be on a playing field with men and I think this incident was extremely disappointing. I think it was crass to be honest.
"They're two good friends. JT and Tiger Woods, good buddies, play a lot together. Tiger Woods outdrove Justin Thomas. It was seemingly done in jest. To me it was laddy, blokey behaviour, passing him the tampon effectively saying: 'I've outdriven you', 'you're driving the ball like a women', effectively the inference of the incident that happened and that to me says females, women are inferior to men.
"'I've outdriven you', 'you've driven the ball a shorter distance than I have and therefore women are inferior to men'. I think that's not what we want to be showcasing in the world of sport. It was crass, it was disappointing and I think surprise from my side because he's playing in the Genesis on the PGA Tour. It's a tournament that he hosts."
If anyone tries to cancel Tiger over this we riot. It’s funny https://t.co/rRXdu9iQiz
— Paige Spiranac (@PaigeSpiranac) February 17, 2023
I don't believe people with a functioning brain are actually 'offended' by Tiger Woods handing Justin Thomas a tampon.
It's all manufactured anger for headlines and hate clicks.
If you are offended by it, you need to go outside more.
— Mark Harris (@itismarkharris) February 17, 2023
😡WHY did they think this was funny? WHAT was the purpose of it? HOW are we supposed to remove any stigma around periods and menstrual health if top-level sportsmen are pulling stunts like this & giggling like school boys?😡@thewellhq https://t.co/RvTQKuh9CO
— Georgie Heath (@GeorgieHeath27) February 17, 2023
Call me woke. Call me a snowflake. Call me “offended”. Whatever. But handing another male golfer a tampon is objectively not funny. It shows the sophistication of a 14 year old schoolboy. @TigerWoods
— Josh Jeffery (@JeffCarnage) February 17, 2023
Dereliction of duty by golf journalists not to ask Woods about the "tampon" incident...it was crass, juvenile & unacceptable will @PGATOUR have the courage to fine him? I doubt it but a full & genuine apology from @TigerWoods for his disgusting behaviour would be a start
— Graeme (@dungra) February 17, 2023
@TigerWoods handing @JustinThomas34 a tampon mid round yesterday after he out drove him after not playing competitive golf for nearly a year was hilarious, seriously peoole are so soft! Laugh! It’s funny and it’s Tiger, he’s having fun you should too. 🐅🐅🐅
— Rocky Cersosimo (@rocksauce22) February 17, 2023
Tiger Woods is hilarious. My man gave a tampon to another guy ffs
— Ahmed أحمد Monkey D. Luffy 🇸🇴 (@StrawHatShonen) February 17, 2023
Speaking after his second round, Woods apologised to anyone he offended. The 47-year-old said it wasn't meant to be anything more than a bit of harmless fun between friends on the course.
“It was supposed to be all fun and games and obviously it hasn’t turned out that way,” Woods said following his second round at the Genesis Invitational. “If I offended anybody, it was not the case, it was just friends having fun.
“If I offended anybody in any way, shape or form, I’m sorry. It was not intended to be that way. It was just we play pranks on one another all the time and virally I think this did not come across that way, but between us it was - it’s different.”
Woods produced a brilliant chip onto the green and nailed his birdie putt to go -1 with a four on the par-5 opening hole on Thursday at the Riviera. Unfortunately he produced a bogey not long after that sent him back to even-par, but golf fans were still delighted with the way the American champion started.
One TV commentator described Woods' birdie as 'extraordinary' considering it was the first hole he'd played at an official PGA Tour event in 884 days. The golf icon then got back into the red with another birdie on the 8th hole, before falling back to one-over with a couple of bogeys on the back nine.
But in amazing scenes, Woods produced three-consecutive birdies on the 16th, 17th and 18th to finish at -2 for the first round. The sensational finish left golf fans gobsmacked and the 15-time major winner in a strong position at two-under going into his second round.
Woods wasn't able to repeat his first round heroics in the second round, where she shot a three-over round at the Riviera on Friday to drop down the leaderboard. It left the 47-year-old at one-over at the halfway stage and on the verge of missing the cut.
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