Tiger Woods’s people have made an announcement: On Friday at 11 a.m. he will conduct a non-press conference!
Woods is expected to discuss his future plans, and to say something about his “indiscretions,” likely in the gentlemanly terms suitable for the setting, the obscene 77,000-square-foot clubhouse, with its baronial fireplaces and framed artwork, of the TPC Sawgrass, at the PGA Tour’s headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Woods’s agent, Mark Steinberg of IMG — yep, still on the scene — told the AP that “a small group of friends, colleagues and close associates” will join Woods, and that a half-dozen reporters will be allowed to attend the non-press conference. But there will be no questions.
Got that Vartan Kupelian? Kupelian came by his invite to the non-press conference by virtue of his position as the president of the Golf Writers Association of America. One peep and you’re out, kid. Now, it so happens, Kupelian writes for the Detroit News, where he’s been since ’71, meaning his job is to report about Tiger’s recent past and future plans for a readership in a city that has 28 percent unemployment. Kupelian might have some insight into what his readers want to know about Tiger’s mindset. He might have some good questions to ask. Not now, Vartan. You’ll be told the appropriate time for that. (That is, never.)
Tiger Woods is a world-class control freak, and in his re-entry into public life — which has showered him with wealth and opportunities and trappings that we can only imagine — he is picking up right where he left off. He controls all. He’s the same way with his golf ball. He tells it exactly what he wants it to do.
A guess is that Tiger is very angry. Angry at the National Enquirer for breaking the story of his infidelity. Angry at NBC — one of the Tour’s most reliable media partners! — for trotting out one of his babes on the Today show with golf buff Matt Lauer. Angry at the mainstream golf press for writing oh-that-Tiger-is-a-fraud stories.
(Yes, it’s possible that he’ll do something totally radical, announce his retirement or something like that. But would he go to PGA Tour HQ to do it? Doubtful.)
And you know what he’ll do with that anger? He’ll take it out on his golf ball, whether he’s at Arnold Palmer’s tournament at Bay Hill in March, the Masters in April, the Players in May, the U.S. Open in June, the British Open in July or the PGA Championship in August. Come September, when the American Ryder Cup team jets off to Wales for a nothing-but-pride team competition? The guess here is he’ll be back on hiatus. Of those tournaments how many could he win? Pick a number between one and five.
Another guess is that Woods will do everything he possibly can to keep his marriage to Elin, and to keep his young son and daughter all under one roof. Woods reportedly spent nearly half of his three months in seclusion in a clinic in Hattiesburg, Miss., that specializes in sex addiction. Like other world-class athletes — the elites of the elite — Woods never acknowledges any vulnerabilities. It seems unthinkable that he would actually consider himself to be a sex addict. What is realistic is that he would spend five weeks or so in therapy because his wife felt that was a necessary starting point to reclaiming their marriage.
One more guess for what Woods might say at his non-press conference on Friday, in front of his small group of friends, colleagues, close associates — and the half-dozen seen-but-not-heard reporters He will be seriously cutting back on his off-course activities. (Note to self: Avoid bad joke here.) Some sponsors have cut him loose or reduced his role. Woods will take that in stride and devote more time to his family and to his foundation. The most impressive thing Woods ever said came in 2006, at the opening of the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, near his boyhood home. He called it the single most important thing he’d ever done. Bill Clinton was standing at his side. Clinton got his second act. Woods will, too. He’ll win tournaments, money will come flowing in again and everybody will feel good.
But in the meantime, he’s getting off on the weakest of notes, with this non-press conference in a ridiculous palace that pays homage to all the excessiveness Tiger’s gaudy Phase I brought. On his first step back, he’s showing that he has all the cards, and you and I and all the people who like golf and are fascinated by what he’s done in the game, well, we have none. Don’t blame Steinberg for this move and don’t blame the high-priced polo shirts at the PGA Tour. This move has Tiger Woods written all over it.
Arnold Palmer played for his fans, but Woods never has, and nothing’s likely to change. It’s arrogant and offputting, the whole idea of this most public of people, one of the best known faces in the world, stepping back into public life without taking so much as a question.
It’s also brilliant. He’s reminding us, and his opponents, too: he’s still in charge.