It’s the moment that sports image experts insisted must happen, but that anyone with half a swing could plainly see that Tiger Woods resisted with every fiber of his billion-dollar being: public contrition.
Friday morning at 11 a.m. EST anyone who cares to can watch via a live feed as Mr. Woods addresses for the first time his shortcomings – including flagrant infidelity – in person.
The carefully stage-managed event comes three months after an early morning crash outside his Orlando home that gave rise to tales of multiple marital infidelity, all of which deeply marred his carefully honed public image, endangered his marriage, and offended sponsors enough so that several severed their ties. Woods, the greatest golfer of all time, has been on leave from the sport since mid-December.
“Tiger plans to discuss his past and his future, and he plans to apologize for his behavior,” according to a statement posted on Woods’s website. “While Tiger feels that what happened is fundamentally a matter between him and his wife, he also recognizes that he has hurt and let down a lot of other people who were close to him. He also let down his fans. He wants to begin the process of making amends, and that's what he's going to discuss.”
The Tiger Woods saga is many things to many people: Another sports hero brought low by poor moral choices, commentary on a fickle public, and a cautionary tale about the pain and real impact of infidelity.
But the question now is how far public contrition – no matter how staged – will go toward healing the rift between Woods and his family and fans, easing the tension with his sponsors, and setting him on a cart-path toward a return to the links.
Judging by reaction on the Internet, repairing his image won’t be easy for Woods. “Knowing how thick-headed and arrogant he is, I don't think Tiger will or can say anything at Friday's press conference that will change my opinion of him,” writes commenter James Vaughan over at ABC News’ Nightline website.
On the other hand, it could succeed in at least laying the framework for a return to the PGA. Either way, the stakes couldn’t be higher for Woods – whose marriage, sponsorships, and professional career are firmly on the line.
TV personality Star Jones says Woods is right not to show too much obeisance to a media that, it could be argued, was eager to give platforms for his mistresses to tell all. “Remember. His behavior was deplorable...but he didn't kill anyone, sell drugs, possess weapons or beat up a woman...PERSPECTIVE,” she pleaded on Twitter.
While Woods and his wife, Elin Nordegren, have apparently separated, there are signs of a possible reconciliation. Woods has been in “rehab” for issues related to his infidelity, according to PGA tour commissioner Tom Finchem.
Still, some say Woods forgot who some of his real supporters were: women.
“… Women in America are really over the cheating husband,” writes Jen on the Nightline website in response to the Woods event.
“We buy the golf shirts for you guys, so guess who’s going to start losing money for his sponsors?”
Other fans may not be as worried about Tiger’s infidelities. Many will likely tune in, not to hear him apologize, but to listen for an indication of when he’s hitting the links again.
“In a vacuum, we'd like him back as soon as possible. But we want him back … when he's dealt with the issues he felt like he had to deal with to come back,” Mr. Finchem of the PGA said in a press conference Wednesday.
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