Woods takes golf into a year of uncertainty

By Doug FergusonDecember 6, 2009, 12:51 am

Practically every new twist in the shocking tale of Tiger Woods includes an aerial view of his Florida home where his troubles began, when he pulled his SUV out of the driveway and drove it into a tree.

More questions arise when one surveys the expanse of grass across the street — the practice range at Isleworth.

Perhaps the most pressing: When will Woods slip into his spikes, step out of his house and hit golf balls again?

There is no telling when the world’s No. 1 player will choose to return to the PGA Tour and the massive galleries that, most certainly, will not gaze upon him quite the way they did at his previous 253 Tour events.

Woods has been out of the public eye since the car crash and subsequent allegations of extramarital affairs took Tigermania into startling new territory during Thanksgiving weekend. He went 13 years without a hint of scandal, the first $1 billion athlete with barely a blemish, guarded with the media even in good times. That’s not likely to change now.

“I am dealing with my behavior and personal failings behind closed doors with my family,” Woods said while confessing to “transgressions” on his Web site last week. “Those feelings should be shared by us alone.”

The greater mystery is his future.

“I think he’s held at a different standard than everybody else out there,” Kenny Perry said Friday at the Chevron World Challenge. “This will be interesting to see how he handles this, though. This is a totally different knock on him when he gets out there and plays next year.”

Until the crash in the wee hours of Nov. 27, anticipation about 2010 in golf was geared toward Woods’ pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ record in the majors, especially a year with Pebble Beach (U.S. Open) and St. Andrews (British Open) in the rotation.

That has been replaced by uncertainty and uneasiness.

A sport that promoted its wholesome image as its biggest asset now has a tawdry mess on its hands because of its star player, who happens to be among the most famous athletes in the world.

“What’s interesting to me about this situation is that while its bad in the short term, for golf, on a global basis, it has moved from being a sport to having iconic, celebrity status, and a whole host of other people are now interested,” said John Rowady, president of rEvolution, a Chicago-based sports marketing and media agency.

“And it may be a sport that is not prepared for that kind of publicity.”

The timing was not the greatest. The PGA Tour is struggling to find title sponsors at four tournaments and renew deals with at least a half dozen others. It also will start negotiations on a network TV deal that ends in 2012.

“I think one of our biggest selling points for the corporate world is that we are relatively controversy-free,” Geoff Ogilvy said at the start of the year. “We don’t generally have too many golfers getting into trouble like some other athletes in other sports do. We’re pretty squeaky-clean like that. It’s been like that for a long time. It doesn’t really seem like it’s going to change.”

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem has been silent during all this. He hasn’t made himself available for comment except for a statement in support of Woods’ family and the player’s request for privacy.

Asked if Finchem would take questions about concerns for golf’s image or whether it would affect business, spokesman Ty Votaw said the Tour does not comment on “hypothetical situations, conjecture and guesswork.”

At the start of the decade, Finchem was at Pebble Beach talking about how golf was in good hands. He cited the new arrivals of Adam Scott, Charles Howell III, David Gossett, young players who represented the values inherent in golf.

No need to mention Woods.

No one ever imagined his name would be splashed across anything but the sports pages, except for being on the cover of Time magazine in 2000 during one of the greatest summers of golf.

Padraig Harrington was quick to distinguish between Woods as a player and a person.

“It’s very much a private matter there,” Harrington said. “He wasn’t … speeding or had a DUI and hurt somebody. It really is a family matter. Hopefully, that’s the worst that golf could ever do. But how it reflects on golf? I suppose things like this have happened before at times, and we move on.

“I would still say golf I know this may be saying it from inside the sport – is constantly the No. 1 sport with the moral ethics and things like that. So I think we’re in a very strong position going forward.”

Woods’ corporate sponsors said they are standing by him. Most sports marketing consultants believe the scandal involving his personal life will have little bearing on TV ratings or contract negotiations. No one can be sure, however, just as no can predict where or when he will return to golf.

“There’s no impact on the sport itself other than the fact its best asset is a little damaged right now,” said Michael Gordon, CEO of Group Gordon Strategic Communications, a crisis PR firm in New York.

“But it starts with Tiger. He’s at the top of the pyramid,” Gordon said. “When Tiger is hurt, other assets could get hurt, too – potentially the PGA Tour, sponsors, his family. It’s a little bit of a domino affect, and he’s the first domino.”

His peers at the Chevron World Challenge – the tournament Woods hosts but did not attend – have largely been supportive without passing judgment, perhaps because they realize that Woods is their meal ticket. They are playing for $5.75 million this week, a snapshot of life on the PGA Tour made possible by Woods and his enormous appeal.

Total prize money was $65 million the year Woods turned pro in 1996. They played for $275 million this year.

Stewart Cink is among those who have jokingly suggested Woods is not human, having won 82 times around the world and 14 majors. After losing to him by a record margin at the Match Play Championship last year, Cink said, “I think maybe we ought to slice him open to see what’s inside. Maybe nuts and bolts.”

Woods twice mentioned in statements during the last week that he was, indeed, “human.” Will that make him seem more vulnerable as a player?

“I don’t think that whatever comes out of this will affect his golf because he’s a professional, and part of being a professional is to separate your personal life from what you do on the course,” Cink said. “I’ve had plenty of times when I came to the golf course in a tournament, and I was just a wreck off the course. … And you have no choice but to just leave that. It’s not always real easy, but he’ll find a way, and he’ll be fine.”

Greg Norman, who preceded Woods as golf’s biggest draw, understands scrutiny into one’s personal life, having disclosed in October that his 15-month marriage to tennis star Chris Evert was ending.

He believes golf is bigger than any one player and will be fine. And while he can empathize with Woods’ public life on display, Norman doesn’t feel sorry for him.

“Hey, he’s the No. 1 player in the world,” Norman said Saturday at the Australian Open. “Publicity is going to follow you no matter what you do, whether you win tournaments, lose tournaments and whatever happens.”

Woods has started at Torrey Pines every year since 2006 when healthy. Tournament director Tom Wilson said he recently met with PGA Tour security consultants about what needs to be done, if Woods chooses this event to mark his return.

“We might need to add a few chairs in the media center,” Wilson said.

If keeping together his family – wife Elin and two children – is a priority, Woods might wait longer.

“Is this going to make him stronger? We’ll find out,” Perry said. “Is this really going to get inside his head a little bit and really going to mess with him? I don’t know how the crowd is … going to attack him. Are they going to verbally abuse him out there? We don’t know.

“I don’t think it’s going to change our tour next year at all,” he said. “Only time will tell.”

Woods has tried to quell minor issues in the past with one sentence in a news conference or one posting on his Web site. Though three statements have been posted on his Web site since the accident, they’ve done little to answer lingering questions. As a result, media outlets have shown no signs of scaling back in their hot pursuit of information.

“When you get nonsporting media spending money on stories, whether they’re true or false, it’s just fanning the flames,” Rowady said.

Either way, he said the next few months will go a long way, starting with Woods returning to golf. He said Woods will need to raise his game not only on the course, but for the tour and its sponsors, his own sponsors and TV partners.

“If it’s true that golf is a gentleman’s game, it benefits by the way he finishes this process,” Rowady said. “How he comes out and eventually speaks and plays could be an asset, and then it heightens the awareness. What’s surprising to me is how quickly people are willing to tear him down. I don’t know that anyone benefits by making Tiger Woods into a villain.”

Getty Images

Rose leads halted Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters when bad weather stopped play Friday during the second round.

The Englishman, who shot a 10-under 62 on Thursday, had completed 13 holes and was 5 under on the day at the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat (64) was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew wit on the 11th hole at 2 under for the day after shooting an opening 72.

There was no reason given for his withdrawal, but the American has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 1:00 pm

Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.

Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.

None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.


Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.

An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.


Playing with the pros

Tiger, DJ and Faxon

Article: Video, images from Tiger, DJ's round with Trump

Article: After DJ and Tiger, Trump plays golf with Jack

Rory faces criticism

Article: Rory: Round with Trump about respect for presidency

Article: Rory: Round with Trump not a 'political statement'


President at the Presidents Cup


Video: President Trump makes the rounds at Liberty National

Article: President Trump presents trophy to U.S. team

Article: Stricker: 'Great thrill' to get trophy from Trump


Purported round of 73 with Lindsey Graham

Article: Senator tweets Trump shot 73 in windy, wet conditions

Article: Graham offers details on Trump's round of 73


Cart on the green


Article: Trump appears to drive cart on Bedminster green


Presence and protests at U.S. Women's Open


Article: Trump makes presidential history at Women's Open

Article: Trump supporters, protesters clash near Women's Open

Article: UltraViolet takes protest inside Trump National


Photo gallery: President Trump at the U.S. Women's Open


Trump golf properties

Vandalism

Article: Environmental group vandalizes Trump golf course

Article: Man accused of vandalizing four Trump courses

Finances


Article: Two Trump courses in Scotland losing millions

Article: Eric Trump denies Russia helped fund golf courses

Article: Trump company ordered to pay $5.77M in dues dispute

Reportedly fake TIME covers


Article: Trump clubs display fake Time magazine cover


Trump apologizes for voter-fraud story

Report: Trump's voter fraud claim tied to Langer

Langer: Trump 'apologized' for story mix-up


Pros comment on the president

Article: Players defend Trump at Senior PGA Championship

Article: Trump congratulates Daly; Daly congratulates Trump

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 12:30 pm

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.