Look, at least we can agree on this much: John Daly?
Beyond that, the whole golfer-can't-handle-a-little-noise discussion veers off into deadly insider/outsider territory, which explains about two-thirds of the passion you can find on ESPN's Conversation pages with regard to Daly's withdrawal from the Honda Classic after -- you guessed it -- someone clicked a camera shutter during his backswing.
Daly halted his swing, glared at the offending party and then attempted to realign his fragile psyche long enough to hit another drive. Almost immediately, however, the big fella realized there was something somewhere inside of him that felt either strained, sprained or otherwise pained; announced, "I'm done"; and walked off the Palm Beach Gardens course, perhaps never to return.
This, of course, was almost too perfect an opening to the whole precious golfer theme. It's always one of the favorite topics of conversation among the sports cognoscenti, right up there with tennis players berating chair umpires and, I don't know, maybe the question of why the building goes funeral-home quiet right before a pro bowler gets ready to toe the line. Ever heard a noiseless bowling alley? My god, what are they teaching our children?
And, reading into the golf cross-spit just a little, it's easy enough to hear the faint strains of anti-Tigerism in the background. Tiger Woods is, in fact, almost the ideal candidate to get pummeled in a noise/silence discussion, if for no other reason than that Woods has been rather famously bothered by the occasional lunkhead on the course -- either the guy firing up the camera he's not supposed to use, or the one who can't wait to begin shouting "Get in the hole!" until Woods has actually, you know, struck his putt.
All fair game, really. Either you're a believer that a trained professional ought to be so thorough in his concentration that something as basic as background noise (twigs snapping, shutters clicking, the gentleman just off the fringe unwrapping his Mars bar) shouldn't bother him in the slightest, or you subscribe to the theory that a precision sport like golf requires exactly such respectful and observant silence to be played at its highest level.
I favor a third notion, which is that it's irrelevant what golfers ought to be able to stand in the way of noise when their entire pro careers have been predicated on the principle of quiet. In other words, you want Tiger to play out of the rough while the lady in the crowd just behind him clears her sinuses, that's fine, so long as everyone agrees that the new rules stipulate all the noise you can make, at any time, and the entire field hereafter will be subject to the same sorts of routine distractions. (Golf as an NBA free-throw experience? I'm all for it. Just change the tradition and gallery regulations of the sport, and we're off and running. Until then, let's keep the moronisms to a minimum and see how it goes.)
But all of this pales before the larger question today, which remains: John Daly?
John Daly was bothered by noise? Is there any hope for mankind? John Daly is like the last of the savages. He's the guy who falls off his stool at the 19th Hole long enough to blast some brilliant (or brilliantly errant) heat-seeking missile off the tee, then busily resumes the rest of his clattering, clanking life while only barely thinking about the shot he'll hit next. For a good while there, he was the golfer for the rest of us, at least in theory.
Am I oversimplifying the career that is Daly's? You bet I am. I don't want the issue complicated, because if even John Daly can find himself put off his game by a stinking camera click, we're all doomed. Have you read the man's autobiography? (Has Daly?) The sound track accompanying his life so far has to be volume 11. Surely he has more buzzes and beeps going through his head on a moment-by-moment basis than any single gallery minion could produce with a Sure Shot.
It strains the bounds of credulity that Daly would even notice a camera going off, much less be especially fazed by it -- and much, much less take that distraction all the way out to the level of tournament-ending owie. Whatever else you make of Daly, that sort of stuff just isn't supposed to matter.
So you'll have to roll with it on this one, with the flying opinions about what constitutes fair game in a sport like golf tinged today with just a bit of disbelief. Maybe it took John Daly going down with injury-by-spectator to really drive the topic into hyperspace, because if it can happen to Daly, there must no longer be any questioning its effect on the tortured souls of the PGA Tour. Stop the madness.
Mark Kreidler's book "Four Days to Glory: Wrestling With the Soul of the American Heartland" is in national release. Kreidler, a regular contributor to ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine, can be reached at email@example.com.