So Tiger Woods is coming down from the mountain to speak to us.
Unless he changes his mind at the last minute, Woods isn’t going to take any questions when he shows up inside the clubhouse of The TPC Sawgrass on Friday morning. He will deliver a statement and that will be it. He and his agent Mark Steinberg and the rest of ‘Team Tiger,’ have invited some, “friends and colleagues,” and, for reasons I don’t completely understand, six members of the print media.
What I don’t understand is why any of us would need to be there. This isn’t a press conference, it is a televised press release. The invited writers shouldn’t even go. They should tell Steinberg and Woods that if the guy isn’t going to answer questions, there’s no reason to attend. In fact, everyone associated with this sham should be ashamed for taking part in it.
The PGA Tour, by giving Woods and company access to the TPC clubhouse (and thus use of a gated facility complete with security) is throwing one of its sponsors, Accenture, right under the bus. You remember Accenture? It was the first corporation to drop Woods after the November 27th car accident that led to all the revelations about his personal life.
If you think for ONE second that the timing of this appearance isn’t connected to the fact that The Accenture World Match Play Championship is going on this week I have some ocean front land in Nebraska I’d like to sell you. Tiger is one of the world’s most vindictive people, someone who can hold a grudge with the best of them. (I say this as someone who holds grudges and can be pretty vindictive myself. I’m trying to get better is about my only defense).
So when Woods, Steinberg and company go to the tour and say, ‘we’re doing this on Friday,' the tour’s answer should be, ‘we can’t stop you but we’re sure as hell not helping you.”
Now, what you’ll say in answer to that is that Tim Finchem can’t afford to have Tiger mad at him because he’s bigger than the game. You’d be right. Except at some point as commissioner of ALL the players in the game you have to draw a line. You have to say, ‘look Tiger, sorry if this upsets you but Accenture is still one of OUR sponsors and we have 64 of the world’s best players in the event this week. We wish you’d wait till next week to do this but if you won’t, you’re on your own.’
If Tiger stalks off to play The European Tour over that, then fine. First of all, he doesn’t want to play in Europe on a regular basis. Second, he looks like a petulant little baby if he does and everyone would know why he was doing it. Finchem should have stood up and said no.
So should The Golf Writers Association of America—of which I am a member. It should have said to Steinberg, “hang on here pal. If you’re holding an alleged press conference, any legitimate member of the golf media (let’s not get into the tabloid question here) should be able to attend. We don’t accept you not only limiting how many people can come but WHO can come.’ Steinberg informed the GWAA that three wire services—AP, Reuters and Bloomberg—were invited and that GWAA President Vartan Kupelian could ‘designate,’ three writers but of course Steinberg could veto his choices.
As in, if Vartan had named, say, ME (God Forbid I wouldn’t be caught dead there) he would have said, ‘no way.’ So, Vartan named himself (fine if he wants to go); Bob Harig from ESPN.com (same thing, fine if poor Bob wants to do it) and Mark Soltau. Look, I like Mark and he’s a good writer. But he WORKS for Tiger—writes for his website. Are you kidding me?
[Update: I'm happy to say the golf writers voted Thursday afternoon to boycott the Tiger-fraud, but that doesn't mean those designated to go might not still go. I hope they don't.]
The problem is this: People are STILL intimidated by Tiger—the commissioner of the tour; a lot of golf writers; a lot of players too. One reason I’d never get in the room is that they know I’d stand up and say, ‘Hang on Tiger, I know there are some people who simply want to see you play golf again and don’t give a damn what you’ve done. That’s fine. That’s their right. They can tune in whenever you’re playing (I still believe it’ll be Doral or Bay Hill although some are theorizing he wants to go play Phoenix next week to have 60,000 drunks screaming his name to remind people that he's still adored). But there are a LOT of people who feel very letdown by you. They feel you lied to them, by talking about how important family was to you while you were doing what you were doing. You made millions because they bought products you endorsed and they gave a lot of money to your foundation. Don’t you owe them the answers to some questions?’
Of course I’d be dragged out by security and accused of grandstanding so it’s better I’m not there.
The sad irony in this is that Tiger is once again being badly advised and is making the wrong decision. If he walked into the room, read his statement and then said, ‘okay fellas (to ANY legitimate media who wanted to show up, not just invited cheerleaders) I’m going to sit here and answer every question you’ve got. Once I’m done and I walk out of this room, I’m done. I’m going to do this once to get it over with so I can move on with my life. Fire away.”
And then, an hour later or whenever it was over, he’d be done. If someone raised the issue again he could legitimately say, “I answered every question I was asked back in February.”
Now, it’s just more of the same stonewalling. Maybe the next step is Oprah and some crocodile tears but I’m not sure that many people will buy that at this point.
On Wednesday afternoon, shortly before the announcement that Tiger was going to speak, I was on Jim Rome’s radio show. Jim asked me if I thought Tiger might come back to the tour a different guy than when he left. I said I didn’t think he’d be even a little bit different, that (if possible) he’d be more closed and more defensive with the media.
So far, unfortunately, I’m right. Maybe he’ll reconsider this morning when he gets in front of the (one) camera allowed in the room. I doubt it. I know his defenders will say he doesn’t owe people anything except spectacular golf. I don’t happen to think that’s true. I’ll watch this thing because my job requires me to watch it but honestly, if that weren’t the case, I wouldn’t go anywhere near it.
I’m pretty damn sure I know exactly what he’s going to say. And I’m just as sure all of you do too.