*Charles Barkley and John Thompson are fuming over comments made Wednesday at a pre-Masters press conference by Billy Payne (who runs the annual tournament in Augusta) regarding the return of Tiger Woods to his event.

Here’s a portion of what Payne said:

As he ascended in our rankings of the world’s great golfers, he became an example to our kids that success is directly attributable to hard work and effort.

But as he now says himself, he forgot in the process to remember that with fame and fortune comes responsibility, not invisibility. It is not simply the degree of his conduct that is so egregious here; it is the fact that he disappointed all of us, and more importantly, our kids and our grand kids. Our hero did not live up to the expectations of the role model we saw for our children.

Is there a way forward? I hope yes. I think yes. But certainly his future will never again be measured only by his performance against par; but measured by the sincerity of his efforts to change. I hope he now realizes that every kid he passes on the course wants his swing, but would settle for his smile.

I hope he can come to understand that life’s greatest rewards are reserved for those who bring joy to the lives of other people. We at Augusta hope and pray that our great champion will begin his new life here tomorrow in a positive, hopeful and constructive manner, but this time, with a significant difference from the past. This year, it will not be just for him, but for all of us, who believe in second chances.

Barkley, among Woods’ inner circle of close friends, was a guest on Fox Sports Radio yesterday and went off.

“You got this punk ass Billy Payne who goes on TV. First of all, he ain’t told his kids to be like no Tiger Woods. Let’s quit kidding ourselves,” Barkley said. “For him to get on there and act like he’s all Uncle Tom, he’s the master on the plantation, that pissed me off. And I wish somebody would just walk up to him and punch him in his face.”

Barkley wasn’t the only one who upset. Former Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson vented on his own DC radio show, spending two full segments talking about how out-of-line the comments were. He reminded his listeners that Payne has nerve chastising a player for his mistakes when Augusta National Golf Club used to discriminate against blacks and women.