Due to the recent Tiger Woods drama, PGA Tour Confidential is coming out of hibernation for a special edition. Check back regularly, because we will convene the roundtable as the news requires. For an archive of the series, go here.
Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: You’ve heard of the Emergency Nine? This is the Emergency Confidential, Tiger edition. We will come together and figure out why Gloria Allred canceled her Rachel Uchitel press conference, how many millions of people have now seen the American Gothic takeoff of a battered Tiger standing beside Elin and what, exactly, it means when Stevie Williams had to pull out of race in New Zealand this weekend because of 'engine trouble.' Let’s start with the future. TV ratings basically double when Tiger is playing in a Tour event. What will happen in the future? In a year or two or three, will there still be the Tiger Effect? Will it be greater? Will it be reduced? Weigh in — and no sexting!
Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: I see the Tiger Effect in full force — for his first tournament back. After that, it depends on how Woods performs. If he’s winning every time he tees it up, big ratings. If not, I see interest slipping.
Dick Friedman, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: I agree to an extent. Long term, I think it will be hard for anyone to look at Tiger in the same way ever again. However, much depends on the next move by Elin. If she decides to continue with the marriage, and they get counseling, and there’s contrition as well as evidence that Tiger has changed his stripes, the Tiger Effect can remain in force. Then, as Jim notes, it will all depend on how he does on the course.
David Dusek, deputy editor, Golf.com: In the immediate future, assuming Tiger makes his return at either Torrey Pines, Pebble Beach (site of the U.S. Open, so not out of the question) or once again at the WGC-Accenture Match Play, it’s going to be a circus like golf has never seen before. Ratings for that event will be huge. In the long run, if Tiger wins as he has in previous years, he’ll still draw eyeballs to televisions.
Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated Golf Plus: If Kobe Bryant teaches us anything, it’s that winning cures many ills. The Tiger Effect may not reach quite as far in the future, but it will still have an impact, especially when/if he begins to approach that 18th major.
Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: I thought it was interesting that Kobe angrily walked out of a press conference at the first Tiger question, even though he said he knew it was coming. Hey, Kobe, thanks for the perspective!
Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Interest only goes up. Golf fans will always watch Tiger. Now US Weekly subscribers will want to see what the fuss is all about.
Bamberger: A birdie for Alan. This spreads the curiosity to new quarters, even for the least likely of reasons. Will Elin and the kids come running out when Tiger wins No. 15?
Morfit: Probably not if Elin and the kids are living in Sweden.
Herre: The general public will move past this scandal, but I think Woods will have a tougher time winning back the golfy types. What he’s done may be equated, by some, to cheating on the course.
Bamberger: I know what you mean, Jim. My own view has been I really don’t care about Tiger’s private life, but then when he came on as the first speaker in a Tour PSA, about all the good and charitable things the Tour does, I found myself looking at him differently. Others feel something like that?
Morfit: I’m curious to see how crowds react to him, how he responds, whether his press conferences become even more bland. (Is such a thing even possible?) Mostly I want to see if this whole mess is going to affect his golf. In the end I doubt it will. The great ones play through all manner of horrific embarrassments. (See: Michael Jordan’s baseball career.)
Dusek: Imagine the number of requests for media credentials at Tiger’s first event of 2010. GOLF Magazine, Sports Illustrated, GolfWorld, TMZ, National Enquirer …
Damon Hack, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I can’t help but wonder what it’ll mean for Tiger. The most private of private people has had his life laid bare and dissected by everyone from Frank Rich of the New York Times to Lorne Michaels of SNL. At the Jags game today, Tiger was spoofed during a timeout. The organization had a blonde woman with a golf club chasing a tiger mascot with a red shirt and Nike hat. Man.
Morfit: There was also a Prairie Home Companion bit. You know golf has broken out of its niche when it makes it onto that show.
Friedman: Chris Mathews on CNBC’s “Hardball” — a political show, for heaven’s sake! — devoted 15 minutes to Tiger the other night!
Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert led their comedy news shows with Tiger the other day. That’s mainstream to the max.
Shipnuck: What’s interesting is that Tiger has never needed anything from anyone. Beginning with the pleading voicemail he allegedly left for Jaime, that all changed. Now he needs support and forgiveness from the fans and the golf press. Instead of clamming up further, maybe this will free him. Think about A-Rod — it was the steroid admission that allowed him to finally display some humanity.
Morfit: That would make this the most brutal silver lining in recent memory.
Friedman: The best outcome for him, public relations-wise, would be a.) if Elin agrees to stay in the marriage and b.) they go on Oprah or 60 Minutes or Barbara Walters together. Then everyone can move on.
Farrell Evans, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: Tiger and Elin can’t move on from here. The only place they go is to a new reality: One that probably doesn’t include her making appearances at golf tournaments. She’ll withdraw more if she stays with him.
Morfit: Given what I know about Tiger’s busy schedule, I keep wondering, where did he find the time?
Shipnuck: Cam, I think the opposite. You never saw Tiger at tournament events or hanging with other players. We thought he was a prisoner of his fame. Now we know he liked being behind closed doors for other reasons.
Morfit: An interesting question to ponder: Without the tabloids doing their thing, does this story ever see the light of day? I suspect not. The week, especially the positive reaction to Jesper Parnevik’s candor, reminded me how much fear there is/was of Tiger and IMG, and how much Tiger and IMG had controlled the message for 13 years. It seems like it took a probable payoff to a source to let it all come spilling out.
Evans: I really believe we’ll see great golf from Tiger in 2010. But I also think this whole affair shows that golfers aren’t any better than other athletes. Now we can stop all the talk about family values and honesty in our game and let our players be human. If this were any other athlete in any other sport, it wouldn’t get this much buzz. But it’s golf, the great game of the ethical and polite suburbanite. Tiger, our great crossover hope, fittingly broke more new ground for the game.
Morfit: I agree with that. All that talk about how golf is different because golfers call penalties on themselves … blah, blah, blah. Give me a break. There’s a lot of arrested development on the PGA Tour. Maybe not as much as some other sports, but still plenty.
Rick Lipsey, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: Until his sexual exploits hit the press, Wilt Chamberlain was Wilt the basketball player. Now we remember him for his thousands of (self-reported) women, not points. Will Tiger face a similar fate?
Shipnuck: I still think of Wilt as the most dominant center ever. (Sorry, Bill Russell.) Private lives are a footnote.
Friedman: First we remember the 100-point game.
Lipsey: His private life got Tiger on the cover of the NY Post for 10 straight days. Such lives are footnotes no longer.
Shipnuck: At the moment, it’s all consuming. In 25 years when he plays his final Masters, there will be plenty of other memories.
Bamberger: Have you all seen the new Golf Digest? It features President Obama lining up a putt, with the help of Tiger — who’s wearing a caddie bib. I don’t get any aspect of that cover, but here’s a question for the group: Do you see Tiger ever playing golf with Obama now? Once it was a pairing the USGA dreamed about. Not any more, I’m guessing.
Shipnuck: It’ll have to wait for the second term.
Lipsey: Tiger and Clinton would have lots to discuss…..
Lipsey: In six months, will all of Tiger’s sponsors still be with him?
Morfit: Gatorade made a pretty tepid statement of support. I wonder what the terms of Tiger’s deals are. I suspect most of them can’t be 86’d at the drop of a bombshell. Sort of reminds me of the position of Notre Dame with its fired football coach, Charlie Weis, who still has six years left on his contract.
Friedman: Most of those deals would have out clauses relating to morals and embarrassment.
Dusek: But in order to get those clauses to kick in the companies almost always have to go to court and have a judge agree that the behavior qualifies. I’m not saying Tiger’s “digressions” don’t qualify, but Fortune 500 brands don’t want that kind of exposure.
Gorant: I’ve heard that behind the scenes AT&T is, um, severely displeased. They’ve got his bag and his tournament.
Van Sickle: Sponsors may not drop Tiger now in a knee-jerk reaction, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few not renew their deals. Then again, if Tiger knocks off several more majors, they might renew at even bigger price points.
Herre: There will be a chilling effect. It will take years for everything to play out, what with Woods’s long-term deals, but companies will no doubt re-think their association with him.
Bamberger: We all cover Tiger, in one way or another. How will you cover Tiger differently now, if at all?
Evans: You cover Tiger the same. You take what he gives you. If he shoots 62, you don’t go in and say, “Wow, Tiger, I think it’s great that you’re playing well under so much tumult at home.” You don’t ask him how Elin and the kids are doing. You don’t bark at him about being a cheater.
Morfit: No differently. Still gotta cover the guy through what he does on the course, and what he says in press conferences. Don’t think this changes anything. It might make it even tougher. On the other hand, it could go the other way. Tiger may just figure he has nothing to lose now, and begin to loosen up a bit. I’m not holding my breath, but it’s theoretically possible.
Lipsey: Definitely have to watch the phrasing of things, because everything now has a double meaning.
Dusek: I will be watching the golf (obviously) and the money. I want to see how Tiger’s sponsors choose to associate their brands with him. I also want to see how much the PGA Tour uses Tiger in PSAs, and how aggressively the networks will promote his image when advertising upcoming tournaments.
Van Sickle: Biggest thing I’m curious about is if Tiger now has paparazzi trailing him everywhere — from the hotel to the golf course to his rental home, whatever. He didn’t have that before. I wouldn’t be surprised if he does now.
Herre: The real eye-opener for me has been how TMZ.com and Radaronline.com have been cited as credible sources by lots of media outlets, even though the websites’ sourcing is beyond flimsy. The fact is, we really don’t know what’s true and what’s not. [Correction: The Associated Press has never cited TMZ.com or Radaronline.com as sources in its news stories on Tiger Woods, as was originally stated in this article.]
Evans: There are no facts, really. All we know is that Tiger isn’t in control of what’s out there. We have some text messages and a voicemail, but we have no bulletproof evidence of Tiger “knowing” any of these women in the Biblical sense. At this point perception is much more powerful than whatever the reality is.
Shipnuck: Farrell, then what are the transgressions he’s apologizing for? Missing that putt at the Barclays?
Morfit: Well said. I think we can pretty safely assume infidelity at this point.
Bamberger: I think Farrell makes a good point. What we think we know and what we actually know are two different things.
Gorant: This is why he needs to come clean. I don’t know about Barbara Walters or Oprah (too staged), but you have to take control of it. Look at what Letterman did. Everything’s going to come out in the end anyway, and the TMZ crowd won’t stop ’til they pick every last piece of meat off the bone. You can kill all the rumors and speculation by telling the whole truth. Then, everyone can start to “heal,” whatever that means.
Friedman: Jim G., you may be right about Walters or Oprah being too staged. But wherever they go, there has to be some rigor in the questioning. The Gammons-A-Rod interview was all batting-practice softballs, and it was a joke, and it ended up hurting more than it helped. And Letterman doesn’t have the same image that Tiger had. (Past tense emphasized.)
Morfit: Whoever does the interview, the first question should be the one Leno asked Hugh Grant: What the hell were you thinking?
Lipsey: Will fans taunt Tiger at Torrey Pines? Or is it totally civil, hushed for Tiger, with every fan thinking about the scandal but saying nothing? Do reporters grill him, or as usual let him off the hook at press conferences?
Friedman: Again, it depends on what transpires in the weeks before he tees off. How much does he take off the table? If nothing is addressed, then there will be large elements of the crowds that will be mercilessly vocal.
Morfit: There will be a lot of fans yelling out what they think are funny comments that will become totally predictable and almost as lame as “You da man!”
Lipsey: Does Steve Williams still have God-blessed authority to rip such fans to pieces?
Evans: My guess is that no one picks on Tiger. He’s already had the worst perp walk imaginable: The first time he had to go into the kitchen and tell Elin that she was about to hear some ugly things about her husband.
Friedman: Farrell, that is naive beyond belief! Just go to any game in any sport these days. There will be folks who will be absolutely brutal.
Morfit: Farrell, you badly underestimate the yahoo factor at PGA Tour events.
Dusek: I’m wondering if they will bring signs or t-shirts instead of just calling out to him as he walks down the fairway. After a few beers in the hospitality tent, some fans will let Tiger know he’s a punchline.
Evans: I think if people are brutal to Tiger Woods, it hurts the tournament, the sponsors and the players. It won’t happen at Augusta, it won’t happen at Arnie’s place or Jack’s place. It won’t happen at the Players. Maybe it happens in Milwaukee or Phoenix, where he doesn’t play.
Dusek: It will happen at Torrey Pines, Pebble Beach or the Match Play.
Morfit: Augusta is the only place I can think of where snide remarks might not happen — as much.
Anne Szeker, producer, Golf.com: It’s a shame the U.S. Open isn’t at Bethpage this year. That would have been an interesting crowd encounter.
Dusek: I’ll be curious to see what happens at Celtic Manor in the Ryder Cup. Will the lads in Wales have a little fun with Tiger?
Bamberger: Weigh in if you care to: Let’s say Elin and Tiger are going to stay together. Let’s say Elin believes IMG and Steve Williams must have known SOMETHING about Tiger’s activities. Do you think she’d force Tiger to fire them?
Friedman: I could see something like that happening, yes, as a condition of keeping the marriage going.
Shipnuck: Oooh, that’s interesting. How can she ever trust any of them again?
Dusek: If they are in counseling, wouldn’t a psychologist say that it would be detrimental for Tiger to be continuously associating with people who either allowed, enabled or looked the other way when it came to his previous lifestyle? People in “recovery” shouldn’t hang around with the same old crowd, should they?
Herre: That’s where this story is headed next. I can’t imagine that there won’t be accusations, implications and changes.
Shipnuck: And it’s not like IMG has done a bang-up job helping Tiger in this crisis.
Dusek: Hard to believe that Team Tiger — famously close-knit and successful for the past 12 seasons — won’t be affected somehow by this. Tiger is ultimately responsible for his actions, and he’s said as much in his statement, but I think at least one head rolls at some point.
Szeker: If some of his handlers don’t get dropped over trust issues, they should be dropped over how poorly this situation was handled, and how quickly it spiraled out of control.
Morfit: Don’t know how you can blame IMG and/or Steve Williams. Guilt by association? Might as well blame Y.E. Yang. Surely they spoke about this in the final round of the PGA. That said, it’s now a no-win situation for Elin. If more women go public, it only adds to the embarrassment. If no more do, then she has to wonder if more are out there. I guess marriages do survive and people do change, and I guess that’s the hope.
Bamberger: I really need help understanding this. Does Tiger have some greater obligation to be faithful to his spouse than anybody else? Why? Because he accepted hundreds of millions of dollars in endorsements? That’s what makes the news more surprising, maybe. But does Tiger really have more of an obligation to be faithful in his marriage than anybody else? Why?
Lipsey: He has no more obligation than anybody else. But if he wanted to keep off the NY Post and TMZ, and out of sight as usual, he should have remained faithful.
Dusek: I don’t think he has a greater obligation to be faithful, but he has to understand that he will be scrutinized much more closely because he took all that endorsement money. Every day of his life he and other famous athletes and celebrities are judged by the public.
Morfit: Right. He’s under no greater obligation, but he is under a greater microscope. And, more important, for 13-15 years he managed to hide almost every personal detail about his life that would have made him more human. I’ve said it before: This is partly the result of years of pent-up curiosity.
Szeker: No, he doesn’t have a greater-than-normal obligation to be faithful. I think he does, however, have an obligation to be open and honest with his fans and supporters when an incident occurs. And to show up to a tournament that he’s hosting and his sponsors are supporting.
Friedman: (Sound of trees falling in forest and no one there to hear them.)
Morfit: Thought so.