PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Looks like you can’t make fun of Tiger Woods with impunity anymore.
Bubba Watson, who once played dozens of practice rounds with Woods and still considers him a friend, raised eyebrows last week when he said the fading former world No. 1 is going down the wrong road with his myriad swing changes.
For months, players have offered unbridled and honest opinions of Woods -- a topic that had them walking on eggshells for 15 years, lest they draw his ire -- but Woods and his camp began fighting back this week at the Players Championship.
On an Irish radio show, Woods' new swing coach Sean Foley quickly mounted a counter-assault when asked about the comments from Watson, who has three victories since last fall to climb to No. 11 in the rankings. Appearing on a Dublin talk show to promote his instructional DVD, Foley fired a sarcastic fastball at Watson's noggin. The comments were first reported on the Irish Golf Desk website.
“He has the right to his own opinion but you probably shouldn’t make comments about a guy who has won 69 more times than you and you are virtually the same age," Foley was quoted as saying. "You know what I mean?”
More excerpts from the Canadian coach: "I would just say, 'Bud, you won three times the last 10 months, I am really pleased for you. You have worked hard and I think it is a great thing that you are playing so well. But why do you feel the need that you have to get the attention? What’s the use in making that comment?"
Foley then took a personal shot at Watson, characterizing him as a publicity hound.
“Let the guy do what he’s doing and you do what you’re doing and it will be fine," Foley said. "There is absolutely zero need for him to make that comment. But you know, Bubba loves the camera anyway so, I mean, whatever.”
Watson already realized the nature of last week's off-the-cuff comments about Woods -- he was never asked about Tiger directly before offering the opinion that Woods is too wrapped up in the mental side of the game and swing changes -- long before he arrived at the Players Championship this week.
"I'll just go ahead and say it," Watson said at the Wells Fargo Championship last week. "I think Tiger is going the wrong way. I think he's so mental right now with his swing. Just go out there and play golf. He used to hit shots, used to bomb it, used to do all that stuff. In 2000 and '97 I think he did pretty good. He won the Masters by 48 shots or whatever he won it by. But I think sometimes he gets carried away on that. And a lot of guys do."
On Tuesday at TPC Sawgrass, Watson said he had spoken with Woods' management about the comments to make sure he hadn't napalmed his bridge with Tiger, who dropped to No. 8 in the world this week.
"I just talked to his agent, and I talked to another person in his camp last week and told them that I didn't say anything wrong. I just said my opinion, and the media runs with it," Watson said.
For context, his Woods comments last week were the result of a query about Sean O'Hair and Foley splitting. Watson has never used a swing coach.
"I just told him [his management] that, look, you know me. I'm good friends with you," Watson said. "I've been a supporter of you the whole time I've been a pro and have known you. So I'm here for you, but I didn't do anything wrong.
"So yeah, the camp says I'm okay, but I haven't talked to the boss yet."
Woods was not doing cartwheels about the comments when he arrived at the Players Championship on Tuesday, and not just because he has a sore knee.
"That was interesting," Woods said tersely when the comments were broached.
Rest assured that the two will speak in person, Woods said.
"We'll talk," Woods said curtly.
Click here for more of the transcript from the Foley radio interview.