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 RICHARD SIMMONS
 Editor
 Golf International

Over blown... in more ways than one!
Tiger’s mea culpa was stage-managed to a tee, and yet the scripted monologue revealed very little, throwing up more questions than it did answers. You could say it was blown out of all context

Since first the story broke, in late November, the most sensational sexual exposé perhaps in the history of sport has revealed the shocking identity of the man who, it turns out, has lived his professional career in a stage-managed circus without any hint of interface with reality. He’s been living a lie, basically. And the true extent to the manner in which virtually everything in Tiger’s world controlled, manipulated and rooted in commercial opportunity was revealed in the public spewing of contrition that passed for a press conference on February 19.

Have you ever witnessed such an excruciating attempt at redemption? The general consensus among those who cared a toss would have assumed it impossible for Tiger and his hapless advisers at IMG to make this whole sorry saga any more of a personal and public relations disaster than it already is. Oh, but they did. In a car-crash of a press call, one in which the parties involved had no less than two months to put together, the world No. 1, outed as a serial cheat and womaniser stood before a limp, hand-picked audience of immediate family, friends, employees and business ‘partners’ (Tiger worshippers, basically) to deliver his grovelling statement. Along with the sniffs, the pauses, the stares into camera and hand-on-heart apology for his sins, the scriptwriters also managed to get in a plug for his charity, take a swipe at the media and deny using performance-enhancing drugs before announcing a renewed kinship with Buddhism.

Golf International March/April 2010 issue

As for his wife, Elin, she was nowhere to be seen. And not once during his confession did Tiger say how much he loved her. The only significant ‘other’ in this pantomime was his mother, Kultida, into whose arms he fell when the agony of this performance was over. That bit was actually quite scary.

The whole manner in which the stunt was put together amounted to nothing short of a crushing snub to the worldwide fraternity of true golfing media – newspapers, magazines and TV – responsible for charting, marvelling and celebrating Tiger’s career over the last 15 years or so as the greatest natural talent the game has seen. To stage it in Jacksonville during the week of the WGC in Arizona displayed a blatant disregard for his peers. The Golf Writers Association of America were summarily informed they could designate three writers to come along to the clubhouse at the TPC to sit in silence and listen to what Woods had to say. After a hastily convened vote, they told him precisely where he could stick the invitation, and you can be sure that the ramifications of Tiger’s arrogance and casual indifference towards those golf writers will haunt him for years to come.

“I do plan to return to golf one day,” said Tiger, in almost a sideways reference to the game, as if it were the farthest thing from his mind. “I just don’t know when that day will be. I don’t rule out that it will be this year. When I do return, I need to make my behaviour more respectful of the game.”

The apparent mental and physical frailty of the hunted, haunted man delivering these words suggested that day wouldn’t be any time soon. And yet, just 24 hours previously, he had been photographed all smiles, looking most Tiger-like, hitting balls outside his home in Orlando. Those images just don’t add up.

As for the references to his on-course behaviour, when you are privileged to have been introduced to golf as a very young boy, it really does speak volumes for your character when, some 30-odd years later, you have to admit it’s time to show some respect for the game and those who play alongside you. The swearing, the spitting on the golf course, the club throwing – maybe he can get therapy for that, too.

“If he had been a professional actor he couldn’t have done much better,” was the reaction of Peter Alliss, whom I had interviewed for the Q&A you’ll find within this issue a week to the day before Tiger’s public outpouring. “I wouldn’t have thought a sportsman could have created such a great deal of publicity with his misdemeanors.”

Read it and weep: Tiger's bizarre press apology dominated the headlines - Elin, however, was conspicuous by her absence

There, in a nutshell, is the worst of it all. That a story about a golfer who strays has been blown out of all proportion at a time there are so many genuine stories of human tragedy and suffering around us. No one died. The hurt that has been caused is confined to Tiger, his wife and his family. Certainly not you or I. He’s been caught out for his feral behaviour and, one suspects, he will pay a high price for it. But that’s all. And how many people do you know who have been treated for sex addiction? It’s the preserve of the rich and shameless. We know he’s sorry. He just needs to say so to the right people. All it would have taken was Tiger to stand in front of all the golf writers he has known since he was a teenager, give his side of the story and then face the music. With his wife beside him for support if they are truly aiming to make an attempt at reconcilliation.

As for the golf, well, from a selfish point of view, I had been half hoping that Tiger’s return to the game would see him in the field at Augusta, since this year I’m looking forward to being there myself. But now there’s a growing feeling in my mind that the Masters, this year at least, will be a lot better off without him and his entourage. Contrary to popular opinion, the one thing we have learned in all this is that golf does not need Tiger Woods anything like as much as Tiger needs golf.

March 2010

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine

 






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