SO where will Tiger Woods fit in the pantheon of golf?
Up there with Hagan, Hogan, Palmer and Nicklaus perhaps? Or maybe the sport should open a new rogue's gallery in his honour. The choice is Tiger's. At age 35, the countdown clock has started ticking loudly for Woods in his bid to become golf's most successful performer of all time.
Though floundering in the deepest slump of his career (never before has he gone 15 months or 17 tournaments without a win), Woods still has some chance of winning the five more Majors he needs to surpass the record 18 achieved by Jack Nicklaus.
Yet time definitely has run out for Tiger when it comes to his reputation.
That clock stopped on Sunday afternoon in Dubai, on the 12th hole, as Woods plumbed new, more disgusting depths.
Tiger has never been good at managing his temper, a serious flaw in a game which places so much emphasis on character. The ability to accept misfortune with dignity and perform with grace under duress is as important a measure of any golfer as the trophies on his sideboard.
In the glory days, foul-mouthed outbursts by Tiger usually were overlooked as the mainstream media and general public were swept along by the tsunami of excitement he stirred.
Only a few brave souls posed questions about the poor example Woods had been setting before his notorious car crash, but the fawning ceased when the scandalous excesses of his life off the course were exposed.
A year ago next Saturday, the chastened Tiger made his famous live TV address from Sawgrass, apologising for his sexual transgressions and expressing his determination to become 'a new man'.
If there had been even the faintest shred of sincerity in that slick TV presentation, it was betrayed on Sunday as the real Woods was exposed in front of millions of TV viewers.
Not for the first time in a frustrating week in Dubai, Woods angrily slammed his club into the ground on the 12th tee as his drive flew right of the fairway into a bunker.
It was a childish act of petulance, something one might expect from some spotty kid in the full flush of puberty, not a 35-year-old master craftsman carving out his second billion from his art.
Worse came on the green as Woods perused his 20-foot putt for par. Hunkered down behind his ball, he turned his head to the right and blew a large, white gob of spit onto the manicured grass beside him.
Sky TV commentator Ewen Murray, who had already chastised Woods on air for spitting on a tee box during Thursday's first round, expressed the disgust of the average golfer when he said: "Somebody now has to come behind him and maybe putt over his spit. It doesn't get much lower than that."
Sadly, this incident and Murray's pertinent remarks, in which he also said Woods must surely incur a fine, were omitted from Sky's highlights that night.
This obscenity should be fully exposed, highlighted as a textbook example of how the golfer must not behave. The days for discretion are long gone where Woods is concerned.
Spitting is not uncommon in field sports like soccer, rugby or our own Gaelic games, where players, under intense physical pressure, have little opportunity to be discreet.
It's more culturally acceptable in America, where many people chew tobacco rather than smoke it. Baseball springs to wind, while Steve Marino spat more fluid than a leaky tap during his fruitless pursuit of winner DA Points at the AT&T National Pro-Am in Pebble Beach on Sunday.
Yet not on the putting green, where, minutes later, fellow competitors will be required to lift, clean and replace their golf balls.
Tiger's transgression was reminiscent of an equally appalling act by his playing companion last Sunday, Sergio Garcia, in 2007 when he spat in the cup after three-putting on the 13th green at Doral.
Like Garcia, Woods slumped out of contention with a closing 75 on Sunday. Yet Tiger remains unique in one regard.
While his focus is not all it should be on the course as he grapples with swing changes ordained by new coach Sean Foley, Tiger's ability last Sunday to remain utterly oblivious to the dozens of fans, many of them children, seeking his autograph outside the scorer's area, was a feat in itself.
The true legends were at home with their fans. Okay, Ben Hogan could be hawkish and Nicklaus had his cranky moments, but they all were very much part of the general golfing community.
While Tiger fights to regain his powers as a player, the most pressing changes he must make are to his demeanour, not his golf swing, if he's to avoid becoming golf's greatest pariah.
'wild things' make battle for top spot a real bore
GOLF needs to get over its obsession with the world rankings. Forget about that battle between Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer for No 1 and get back in touch with reality.
The most exciting players in the sport are Alvaro Quiros and Bubba Watson.
Quiros refuses to put a rein on his monster hitting, with spectacular results, as seen on Sunday in Dubai as he romped to victory with two eagles, including an ace, four birdies, a bogey and a triple-bogey on his card.
Torrey Pines winner Watson also hits the ball a mile and takes on shots even Phil Mickelson wouldn't dream of. The world rankings reflect consistency over the past two years. Yawn! Quiros (No 21) and Watson (No 19) are doing their 'Wild Thing' right now.
AMERICAN DA Points thanked comedian Bill Murray for helping jolly him along to a first PGA Tour victory. Yet Steve Marino can't have been as amused as he waited to play in the 'Caddyshack' star's group late on Sunday afternoon, especially on the fairway at 18.
SPITTLE also fell on Sunday at the Allianz Championship in Boca Rotan. Canadian Rod Spittle finished tied second as Tom Lehman claimed his third Champions Tour victory.