Reed Mackenzie was the general chairman for the 1991 U.S. Open at Hazeltine National. He was the 57th president of the U.S. Golf Association when Hazeltine was the host of its next major, the PGA Championship, in 2002.
He has walked many miles in a white shirt serving as a referee in major championships and USGA events of all matter. This included the final match in 1993, when Tiger Woods was trying for a third consecutive U.S. Junior Amateur title.
"He was 2-down with two holes to play," Mackenzie said. "The dad [Earl] kept telling me, 'There's something special in this kid, but you never see it until he has to have it.' I figured it was something every father says about his kid."
Then, Woods won the 17th hole by leaving himself a 9-iron to a 460-yard hole and making a 12-foot birdie putt, won the 18th by muscling a bunker shot 50 yards and making a 15-foot putt, and then winning in extra holes.
"That was the most exciting golf I've ever seen," Mackenzie said. "His father was right. There is something special inside him."
Mackenzie can't be accused of offering hindsight. He gave me these quotes at the 1995 Masters, when Woods was getting ready to play at Augusta National for the first time as a 19-year-old amateur.
Mackenzie's admiration for Woods did not waver. At the 2002 Masters, he said of Tiger: "He's a tremendous representative for the game of golf. He couldn't be any better."
Later that year, Mackenzie was the referee for Tiger's twosome Saturday at the British Open. The afternoon groups were caught in tremendous rain and wind at Muirfield, Woods shot an 81 and with it went his chance to win golf's Grand Slam.
"It was blowing so hard the rain hurt," MacKenzie said. "Tiger was obviously frustrated. Still, the way he handled it, the way he accepted it as a bad day, I thought it was extraordinary."
These snippets from earlier conversations demonstrate Mackenzie's credentials as a Tiger Woods fan. So, there is significance in a one-word response when the former USGA president is asked this question:
"Do you feel as if Tiger's on-course high jinks and displays of temper at the British Open were way over the top?"
Rick Reilly now writes for espn.com, and hacked up Tiger in a column headlined, "Woods needs to clean up his act."
What's remarkable is that few other reporters covering the events at Turnberry paused to offer a hatchet job on Tiger's juvenile behavior.
He's 33 and the father of two. Aren't 33-year-old family men supposed to be more mature than they were as 17-year-olds in pursuit of a third Junior Amateur?
That's not the case with Woods. We can reach that conclusion, because if Mackenzie had been refereeing a match in which a teenager acted as did Woods at Turnberry, he would have described him in words other than "exciting" and "special."
The golf followers rooting against Woods will tell you they do so because of the club-slamming, the "why me?" anguish when a putt veers off course and the rest of the unneeded histrionics.
Generally, I've been an apologist for Tiger's behavior. This time, the club slamming (and throwing), the audible profanities and the self-pitying poses were not isolated.
The absurdity went on hole after hole, until it was a relief that Woods missed the cut so that we didn't have to watch any more of his decline into prepubescence.
Over two days and 36 holes, Woods became a real-life version of Benjamin Button -- going from the early 30s to the Terrible Twos.
Here's the deal: When you consider the discipline of the game, Tiger's behavior at Turnberry was as much an outrage against golf as anything John McEnroe did on a tennis court, or Brock Lesnar did inside the octagon after his recent UFC victory.
"The only thing missing with Tiger Woods is the kind of decorum you see from Tom Watson on the golf course," Mackenzie said Saturday. "Watson had a bad bounce with his second shot on 18. No dramatics; he simply played on. That's an example for any player, including Tiger."
And Reed Mackenzie.
"I threw some clubs in my life, but not for a long time," he said. "If I tried it today, I would hurt myself."
That's what Tiger did at Turnberry -- hurt himself, his game and his fans. We can only hope for a maturity spurt before he arrives at Hazeltine next month for the PGA.
Patrick Reusse can be heard 5:30-9 a.m. weekdays on AM-1500 KSTP. • email@example.com