PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Tiger Woods’ first public appearance in three months already is shaping up as a national event.
Tight security restricted access on the road that leads to the TPC Sawgrass clubhouse, where Woods is to speak at 11 a.m. EST Friday for the first time since his Nov. 27 accident that set off sordid revelations of infidelity.
Networks reworked their programming and, by late Thursday afternoon, seven satellite trucks had already parked outside the Sawgrass Marriott. The parking lot last saw this kind of activity five years ago – for media day at the Super Bowl between the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles.
All because Woods – surely one of the world’s most-recognized athletes – is about to re-emerge and say something in person regarding his future and his past.
The public hasn’t had a clean look at Woods’ face since photos Wednesday of him jogging in his neighborhood outside Orlando.
Far more compelling will be the sound of his voice. Woods has not been heard in the 78 days since a magazine released a voicemail he allegedly left one of the women to whom he has been romantically linked, warning that Woods’ wife might be calling.
Instead of going on “Oprah” or another national television show to break the ice, Woods essentially will be speaking to the lone camera allowed in the room. It will be televised via satellite.
Three networks – ABC, CBS and NBC – will carry the statement live. ESPN will have it live on all its platforms, including Internet streaming, radio and mobile. It also will be piped over YouTube, the Web’s most popular video channel. Golf Channel will start coverage at 10:30 a.m. – call it a 30-minute pregame show.
Almost as intriguing is which “friends, colleagues and close associates” will be in the Sunset Room on the second floor of the Mediterranean-style clubhouse at the TPC Sawgrass.
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, who made the clubhouse available and is offering logistical help, has said he would attend, and as many as four other members of his executive staff will be in the room.
Everyone else will congregate at the Sawgrass Marriott to watch on short circuit. The adjacent ballrooms looked ready to hold a Super Bowl party, with flat-screen TVs along the walls and a large video screen in the center of the room.
A British bookmaker has set odds at 4-to-7 that Woods’ wife, Elin, will be with him. William Hill didn’t stop there, however. It offers 8-to-1 odds that Woods will announce he is getting a divorce, 12-to-1 odds that his wife is pregnant and 100-to-1 odds that he is retiring.
“While Tiger feels that what happened is fundamentally a matter between he and his wife, he also recognizes that he has hurt and let down a lot of other people who were close to him,” his agent, Mark Steinberg, said in an e-mail Wednesday. “He also let down his fans. He wants to begin the process of making amends and that’s what he’s going to discuss.”
Steinberg invited three reporters from wire services – The Associated Press, Reuters and Bloomberg – and he turned to the Golf Writers Association of America to come up with a pool of three reporters. However, the GWAA board of directors voted overwhelming Thursday not to participate, turning down a negotiated offer to increase the number of pool reporters to six.
“I cannot stress how strongly our board felt that this should be open to all media and also for the opportunity to question Woods,” said Vartan Kupelian, president of the 950-member group. “The position, simply put, is all or none. This is a major story of international scope. To limit the ability of journalists to attend, listen, see and question Woods goes against the grain of everything we believe.”
The GWAA said it believes strongly that its presence, without the ability to ask question, gives credibility to an event that isn’t worthy of it. Nineteen board members voted for the proposal to protest by boycotting the proceedings. There were four votes against the proposal and three abstentions.
Woods has always been about control, even in better times. He refused to go into the media center before a PGA Tour event if he was not the defending champion. If he agreed to a 10-minute interview to pitch a product he endorses, it was common for a company employee to be in the room making sure it didn’t go one second beyond that.
But having not heard from Woods – except for three statements on his Web site – in three months, this event has taken on a life of its own.
Conversation raged online, as many took glee in speculating on what Woods will say Friday.
One of the most popular threads on Twitter carried the tag “tigershouldsay.” Suggestions were predominantly sarcastic, such as: “At least I didn’t use steroids.”
The PGA Tour will have two tournaments in progress Friday, including the third round of the Accenture Match Play Championship, the first title sponsor to drop Woods during this sex scandal. Some players did not think it was a coincidence.
Most of them, however, will be just like everyone else – curious what Woods has to say, and how he says it.
“It has to be held at some stage,” Padraig Harrington said. “The sooner he makes a statement, the better. And the sooner he’s back to playing golf – he’s pretty good at playing golf – the better.”
AP Television Writer Frazier Moore and AP Entertainment Writer Jake Coyle contributed to this report.