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Forgiven, maybe. Forgotten? Never
However Tiger and his hapless team of advisers try to spin it, there is no getting away from the fact that his legacy is now fatally flawed - while the latest TV ad from sponsors Nike is just an act of crass commercialism

The legacy that Tiger Woods will leave in golf is still being crafted as Woods bids to become unquestionably the best golfer the world has ever seen. In my view, he is not that yet and won’t be until he passes Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 major championship victories – if indeed he does – but that is a story for another day.

For now, what about Woods’s legacy as the best-known, most immediately recognisable sportsman in the world, and as a person? As a father, a husband, a role model? This is a role in which he has repeatedly damned himself recently, referring publicly to “his irresponsible behaviour”, to “how far astray I got from my core fundamentals and the coremorals that my Mom and Dad taught me.” Woods has said: “I was unfaithful. I had affairs. I cheated. What I did was not acceptable and I am the only person to blame.”

In these regards, it is hard to see Woods coming back. Forgiven for his misdemeanours, yes. The more major championships he wins, the more he will be forgiven. But forgotten? No.

Two events at the Masters will help to defineWoods as a person as opposed to a golfer. The first was the famous press conference with 200 journalists on Monday 6th April.

For 35 minutes Woods hardly had a glove laid on him by any of the journalists. He was unusually loquacious, and he played favourites, being overtly pally with American journalists, often calling them by their first names, while at the same time being cool, even flippant, with two British journalists. He publicly denied he had taken any performance enhancing drugs and he revealed that he had five stitches in a lip and a sore neck after driving into the hydrant.

Immediately after the press conference I was put in front of a television camera, had a microphone clipped to my shirt and asked my reaction to what Woods had said. I said I thought it had been a frothy, light as air soufflé when one had been hoping for something more substantial.

Was it too much to expect that if Woods was prepared to be questioned, then we had a right to expect him to answer those questions. But that’s Woods’ style. Give away as little as possible. Be in control.

About this time a remarkable article about Woods appeared in Vanity Fair, a monthly magazine printed in the US. It contained detailed, sometimes very detailed, accounts of some of Woods's conquests as well as specially taken photographs and it made national news. It was called The Temptation of Tiger Woods, was perhaps 3,000 words and it put on the record, in extraordinary detail, many things that Woods would not like to have on the record, none of which have been denied, incidentally. A brilliantly researched article, it has done Woods no good whatsoever.

Tiger Woods / Earl Woods Nike Ad
Give us a (commercial) break: the latest Nike ad saw Tiger and his sponsors
plumb new depths of bad taste in this whole sorry affair

The second was the transmitting of the Nike television advertisement starring Woods on Wednesday 8th April, the eve of the tournament. It was the first advertisement he has appeared in for any sponsor since his car crash and subsequent involvement in a series of sex scandals last November.

Nike’s advertisement featured a totally silent Woods staring at the camera while a voice spoke. First reactions? It was very arresting. It grabbed your attention, because you wondered whose voice it was. Answer: Earl Woods and the fact that Earl died in 2006 made it rather spooky. Second reaction: how can Woods, who has often said he has tried to keep his family out of the public, allow use of his dead father to help sell Nike goods?

It was only a few days later that a further fact about this commercial emerged. Though the advertisement clearly intended to give the impression that Earl was talking about Tiger, it turned out that he was talking about Kultilda, his wife.

There was the nub of the whole sordid affair. It was misleading, to the point of being dishonest, never mind slightly tasteless. And in that, if nothing else, it was true to Tiger. He has been misleading and dishonest, arrogant and uncaring and tasteless. If there is anything good to come out of this affair, it is that it is over. At least, I hope it is.

May 2010

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine


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