Tiger Woods press conference today: big step for the golfer and the pitchman

The Tiger Woods press conference Monday was a key step in rehabilitating the athlete's image as a corporate pitchman. But he still faces other tests.

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    Fred Couples (left) was paired with Tiger Woods in Monday's practice round for the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Ga. Later, at his press conference, Woods took a big step in repairing his image as a golfer and a corporate pitchman.
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Tiger Woods is on the comeback trail, not only on the golf course but as a public figure and, quite possibly, corporate pitchman.

Mr. Woods faced a barrage of questions at his first full press conference Monday and, by many counts, handled them well. It represented a big step in the rehabilitation of his image after his well-publicized dalliances last year.

That rehabilitation is key if Woods is to star again as a corporate endorser. After earning a reported $64 million last year, the world's top athlete in endorsements, Woods has lost three major accounts: Gatorade, Accenture, and AT&T.

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"I think he lay a lot of groundwork as a future corporate spokesman," says T.J. Walker, CEO of Media Training Worldwide, a media and crisis communications firm based in New York. "He was contrite. He was humble. He was modest. He came across as sincere."

Fortunately for Tiger, he doesn't have to hurry to find a new sponsor. He still represents major companies and brands like Nike, EA Sports, Gillette, Swiss watchmaker Tag Heuer, and others.

"Hopefully, I can prove to the other companies going forward that I am a worthy investment," he said, answering a question on corporate sponsorships at Monday's press conference. "I felt I was representing companies well in the past."

It's not clear that the Woods's new tone in the press conference – approachable, rather than imperious – will help him land new sponsors.

"I have a hard time figuring out how this [scandal] could help him," Mr. Walker says. "People like a comeback story. But when you have so many endorsements of major corporations in the world ... you're already operating at the very highest of levels."

Of key importance, of course, is what Woods accomplishes on the golf course. This week at the Masters, the world will see whether he still has what it takes to win a major championship.

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