(KTLA) – Tiger Woods issued an apology Friday amid growing backlash over what he called a prank during the first round of the Genesis Invitational at the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, California.
On Thursday, fans noticed he passed a Tampax tampon to fellow golfer Justin Thomas after outdriving him.
“Yeah, it was supposed to be all fun and games and obviously it hasn’t turned out that way,” Woods said. “If I offended anybody, it was not the case, it was just friends having fun.”
The incident happened on the ninth hole, and video shows Woods surreptitiously putting something in Thomas’ hand as they walk together down the fairway. Eagle-eyed fans saw that it was the feminine product.
Rick Gehman tweeted a closeup photo with the caption, “Tiger Woods had a gift for Justin Thomas after driving it past him on number nine.” Video of the handoff shows Thomas glancing down at the item and immediately throwing it on the ground as Woods giggles and throws his arm around him.
“As I said, if I offended anybody in any way, shape or form, I’m sorry,” said Woods, who is the host of the tournament. “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.”
While the move by Woods was meant to be a form of trash talk to Thomas, a close friend off the course, it prompted a firestorm of criticism.
Author and Golf Digest contributor Shane Ryan took to Twitter to condemn the move.
“Tiger Woods’ humor has always been slightly lame, dumb-jock type of stuff, but becoming a prop comic? That’s a new low.”
USA Today’s For the Win writer Charles Curtis called the prank “childish” and “sexist.”
“Is the joke here to ‘stop playing like a girl’? Or that periods and tampons indicate weakness?” Curtis questioned. “It’s not funny. I’ve seen too many people laughing at this. Do better. You too, Tiger.”
For the Win Managing Editor Alex McDaniel tweeted Curtis’ article with the caption “If Tiger spent three months a year bleeding and coping with period pain, they’d make a whole-a– documentary about how champions overcome insurmountable obstacles.”
“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,” tweeted videographer/photographer Josh Jeffery.
Author Julie DiCaro said the alleged prank is degrading to women.
“All the guys think this is hilarious, but the joke is denigrating women. So played out and stupid,” she tweeted. “I always cheer for Tiger, and I’m so happy to see him back. But this is so cringy.”
Others felt that the move was just all in good fun.
“Tiger Woods was just joking around, y’all. No, need to get all cancel culture on him, This was just a funny PERIOD in his life…lol, see what I did there?” tweeted one user.
“I love this, good fun among friends,” tweeted another.
Thursday’s return to the Riv was the golfer’s first round of competitive golf in seven months and despite an injury in his right ankle that still bothers him, he had three birdies on the last three holes to shoot a two-under 69.
Woods finished five shots behind co-leaders Max Homa and Keith Mitchell.
The Genesis Invitational takes place Feb. 16-19.