The Great Guessing Game continues, only now the question has finally changed. Instead of wondering, Where's Waldo?, now we're wondering, What's Waldo going to say?
Tiger Woods called a news conference for Friday morning at which he will make a statement, issue an apology for his actions and leave without taking questions from a small handful of hand-picked reporters allowed to attend, one of whom may be from TigerWoods.com.
The World Series of Speculation began in earnest Wednesday evening after Tiger's announcement effectively pushed the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship out of the news. Coincidentally, Accenture was one of the first sponsors to drop Woosd like a hot potato after his scandal broke. Or, as some players at the tournament suspected, not coincidentally.
I received a short text early Thursday morning (5:30--c'mon, man!) from the Anonymous Pro who regularly joins our PGA Tour Confidential sessions. It read: "Tiger is a selfish prick. Nothing's changed." Based on some player comments in the following excerpts and opinions by assorted media, the Anonymous Pro may be in the majority opinion.
Jeff Shain of the Orlando Sentinel reached FOT (Friend of Tiger) John Cook, who confirmed that he received an invite to Friday's reading but won't attend. "I can't even speculate what he might come out with," said Cook, who added that he has had no contact with Woods throughout this dismal episode. "I'm just happy that he is."
The world's media had a big, empty canvas to paint with speculation about what Tiger will say, and when and whether he's going to play. Thursday's columns were decidedly leaning toward anti-Tiger. One other note: A photo of Tiger jogging in his Windermere neighborhood was released Wednesday. Notably, he's not wearing a wedding ring--but he is wearing plenty of Nike-logo gear.
You can say what you want about how Tiger and his team have mishandled the public relations aspect of his scandal, but a search of the web Thursday morning revealed many, many fewer columnists weighing in on Tiger than you might expect. Many of the sports world's heavyweight ink-stained wretches are busy drooling over the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. They'll have time to load up, however, and respond to Friday's Tiger Show in force. Should be interesting. Your complimentary Tiger highlights smorgasbord...
Greg Hansen of the Arizona Daily Star scores Tiger 1 up in this match:
The defending champion of the WGC-Accenture Match Play
Championship knocked off work early Wednesday, winning in 13 holes,
and walked straightaway to the media interview pavilion, capacity
107. Geoff Ogilvy was greeted by an audience of three - and it wasn't
even lunchtime. Two hours later, without advance notice, the PGA Tour announced
that commissioner Tim Finchem was en route to the media center and
would be taking questions on Tiger Woods.
Such is the relevancy, or irrelevancy, of a pro tour without
Tiger. You mean there's a golf tournament worth $8.5 million being
played at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club? Woods might've shown some respect for the PGA Tour, and to the
Accenture people, by staging his I'm-back-and-I'm-sorry briefing on
a Monday or Tuesday, when those who pay for these events weren't on
stage. But without saying a word, he loudly said this: I'm still in
If you're scoring at home, this is Woods' first victory on tour
this year. He has dictated terms of his return and has instantly
regained the control he seemed to lose on a Florida driveway three
As you might imagine, the Woods news swept through the desert here
Wednesday, raising eyebrows and drawing ire for its timing. Friday
happens to be the third day of the Accenture Match Play, a tournament
already lessened by the absence of Woods and a vacationing Phil
Mickelson. Match Play? What Match Play?
"It's selfish," said Ernie Els. "You can write
that. I feel sorry for the sponsor. Mondays are a good day to make
statements, not Friday. This takes a lot away from the golf tournament."
In a brief telephone conversation Wednesday, Steinberg emphatically
told me there was no intention to interfere with Accenture's spotlight. "It's always good to get your information right before commenting,"
Steinberg said of the criticism. "It's strictly a
timing issue. There is a very good reason..."
The agent would not say what the compelling reason is, why the
statement couldn't wait, but I got the sense we'll know Friday.
Not many players were amused that "Golf's Global Summit," which
these World Golf Championships are billed as, were being pre-empted by
golf's global icon.
"That was the first thing we all thought of, like he is sticking it
to Accenture -- and that the PGA Tour is part of it all," one player
said in the locker room, shaking his head. "It's like Tim (Finchem, the
tour commissioner) has lost his head. He wants Tiger back in the worst
way, and so he lets this go on. I mean, we all want to see Tiger back,
but this doesn't look good."
Strong sentiments, for sure. Some players weren't afraid to echo them in more diplomatic terms.
"The timing of it is not the best," Sergio Garcia said, "but he has to do what's best for him, I guess."
Added Rory McIlroy: "He's got to come out at some point. I suppose
he might want to get something back against the sponsor that dropped
Two-time Accenture Match Play winner Geoff Ogilvy, the defending
champion this week, also admitted he is intrigued by what Woods might
say. "Maybe we can put the whole tournament on hold for 10 minutes to
watch (on TV)," he said with a laugh.
Have you ever heard of a professional athlete apologizing for being a dog and having sex with women other than his wife? (Somewhere, Michael Jordan is laughing his a -- off at a blackjack table.) Isn't that the sort of behavior we've come to expect from athletes like Tiger, the sort of behavior that, in fact, we not-so-secretly relish about them, that they aren't physically bound by the same laws that we civilians are, both on the playing field and in their pants? (Somewhere, Wilt Chamberlain, layer of 20,000
women, is rolling over in his grave.)
Let's think about this for a second.
Tiger Woods isn't an elected official. He didn't do anything illegal... but I do know that the only way for Tiger to win back his fans is to win--to shut up, play golf, and collect more
trophies... Tiger's image, of course, will never be the same. Although he turned
34 at the end of December, Tiger carried an air of youthful wholesomeness deep into his adulthood. He lingered in our fantasies as the wunderkind, the child prodigy first introduced to the world on The Mike Douglas Show, the skinny kid at Stanford, the fist-pumping upstart who turned pro at 20. That image was lost around the time Tiger's mistress count soared into double digits but this is America, and we love a second act.
Woods still doesn't get it. The game has changed. He's no longer in charge. To
Woods, it's still all about being in control. All about calling the
shots. He believes he can market his comeback the same way Nike has
long marketed his image. He's no longer in charge of the message,
and with good reason. Woods lied to the media, lied to his fans and
deceived people who spent millions buying the products he hawked with a
Expect Woods to... give a brief apology for anything that might have hurt his family or the game of golf, then say the words he's been itching to say for weeks: "From now on I'd appreciate that any questions you have for me are about my golf game. I've said all I'm going to say about my personal life."
What Woods still doesn't seem to understand is that it won't end things. Not only will the golf media not be nearly as subservient anymore, but the story has long since been hijacked by the tabloids and entertainment shows.
Tiger Woods, who surfaced on the streets of Orlando today, has been spending time at the Windermere, Fla., home he technically still shares with his wife and two children, a source tells E! News. The insider doesn't know how long the open-door policy has been in place, but "as of this week," Woods has been coming and going.
In fact, the possibly tournament-hungry golf star stopped by earlier Wednesday, before he worked out at a local country club. And before he posed went for a run...
A source tells us that the photo of Woods from today, the first clear shot of him since details of his extramarital affairs went kablooey, was taken "with Tiger's consent" by a shutterbug from Getty Images.
And everyone thought Tiger Woods would not be showing up at the W.G.C.-Accenture Match Play Championship
this week. But he was here in spirit, dominating the airwaves shortly after noon on Wednesday when ESPN broadcast the announcement that Woods plans to break his lengthy silence and end his self-imposed exile from the game... That would be this Friday, during the third round of the $8.5-million match-play tournament sponsored by the first company to disassociate itself from Woods because of the off-course scandal about his admitted infidelities.
Suddenly, the action on the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club course at Dove Mountain became
secondary, superseded by the impending return of Woods, who was last seen in public on Nov. 27 after crashing his Cadillac Escalade into a neighbor's tree at 2 a.m.
Woods is getting more stupid advice. Instead of easing the scrutiny he
has been enduring, the athletic superstar is about to increase public
antipathy for his situation. Sympathy and forgiveness are not likely to
be the outcome of his Friday "news conference."
The idea that he only has to read a written statement to a solitary
live camera, a room full of friends and colleagues, and a few wire
service reporters that have agreed not to ask questions, is certain to
anger journalists and the public that has adored Tiger but still wants
The first question to be asked, however, is about journalism. What
kind of wire service goes to a "news conference" where no questions are
allowed? This appearance has the potential for Tiger's friends and colleagues
gathered in the room to turn into a bit of a Greek chorus as he reads
his statement. Politicians often try this public relations scam when
they are beleaguered. It never works and only further angers
reporters and they redouble their efforts to do critical reporting on
The entire statement is supposed to take about 5-7 minutes — or, if you do
the math, about 30 seconds per alleged mistress. That leaves two possibilities for Tiger Woods' first public appearance since his world exploded:
1. He plans on talking really, really fast.
2. He still has no idea how to deal with the mess he created.
He is handling this in a typical Tiger way, which is to say on his terms. There will be one pool camera in the room, and to make the entire experience complete, he should have caddie Stevie Williams put his hand over the lens and push it to the ground.
If he really is serious about "taking the next step," as his agent said, he should follow the lead of an unlikely source. Alex Rodriguez. It was one year ago yesterday when A-Rod solemnly sat behind the cameras and, for more than 30 minutes, fielded one fastball after another from a group of foaming-at-the-mouth reporters. His story was filled with holes. But he answered the questions.
A-Rod survived the scandal. Hitting .365 with six home runs and 18 RBI as the Yankees marched to a World Series title certainly helped that, just like another green jacket would change the narrative for Woods.
What will be left open to interpretation is whether
we see a different Tiger Woods on Friday. Will he be the same remote,
almost imperial presence who has floated above the masses and media for
nearly 15 years, or will this be a more humble version of the best
player currently swinging a golf club for a living?
Of greatest interest, perhaps, will be whether Woods gives
any indication of a timetable for his return to competition. Right now, the speculation has him returning as soon as the Tavistock Cup -- an exhibition played on his home course at
Isleworth March 22-23 -- followed by the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in Orlando beginning March 25. That would give Woods some competitive preparation for the Masters two weeks later.