MARANA, Ariz. – Entire forests have been felled making the point. More airtime has been wasted on its particulars than on Lindsey Vonn’s ailing shin. And the echoes have been nearly unanimous in regard to a central theme – Tiger Woods should make his public mea culpa sooner rather than later.
We now know the “when” (Friday, 11 a.m. ET) and the “where” (TPC Sawgrass clubhouse, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.), but are now flummoxed by the “why.”
While the devil remains in the details, it seems Woods’ public statements will be largely a private affair. According to an announcement released by Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg there will be a single “pool” camera that will feed the event to networks around the globe, but only a few “pool” reporters – picked by the Golf Writers Association of America – who will not be allowed to ask questions.
As make-goods go, this one already has a circus feel. Whether you adhere to the “he has no one to apologize to outside his immediate family” school of thought or consider his public mea culpa a key step in the reclamation project that has become his life doesn’t matter.
What matters is that the mainstream press wants answers almost as badly as Woods wants his privacy and a Ponte Vedra Beach dog-and-pony show is not going to change that.
The greater concern is why this week? A week when the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship had already been reduced to the NIT by the absence of Woods and Phil Mickelson, who is spending the week with his wife after a long summer battling breast cancer.
This couldn’t have waited until Monday, when the zealots who inhabit the “Bird’s Nest” at TPC Scottsdale could give a hoot about what happens inside some cramped north Florida conference room?
Rory McIlroy, bless his youthful heart, was asked his thoughts about Woods’ timing shortly after his first-round match at Dove Mountain and caught the elephant in the room between the eyes.
“He’s got to come out at some point,” McIlroy said. “I suppose he’d want to get something back at a sponsor that dropped him.”
On Dec. 13 Accenture ended its endorsement deal with Woods, saying at the time the world No. 1 was “no longer the right representative.”
To be fair, there is no way to know the rhyme or reason behind the timing of Woods’ Friday press conference, but to cut into the heart of Accenture’s signature golf event feels self-absorbed, at best, and vindictive, at worst.
Asked by the Associated Press on Wednesday if the event could’ve waited until Monday, Steinberg offered only a simple, “no.”
And what of the Tour’s culpability in this? According to commissioner Tim Finchem the Woods camp never asked for the Tour’s input, yet to hold the event at TPC Sawgrass, a mere 3-wood from Tour headquarters, is to offer at least tacit approval of the timing.
“We have tournaments every week,” Finchem reasoned.
True, but few tournaments have been as loyal as Accenture, which has been the title sponsor of the $8.5 million event – which Woods has won three times – since it began in 1999. Nor do other events mean as much to a Tour struggling through rough economic waters as Accenture, which has a title sponsor contract that expires at the end of the 2014 season.
Finchem, who was at Dove Mountain on Wednesday, said he would fly back to Florida for Woods’ press conference before returning to Arizona for the weekend. May we suggest a side trip to New York City to try and smooth things over with the Accenture brass?
As for what Woods may say on Friday, Finchem said he did not know. Best guess is he will apologize for his actions and perhaps map out a return strategy to the Tour.
We can be sure, however, of a few things he won’t say, like “next question” and “I’d like to apologize to Accenture.” Whatever Woods has learned in the months since he hit the Isleworth fire hydrant it would seem forgiveness would have been a central theme.
Once again the youthful sage McIlroy seemed to sum up the feeling of most players at the Match Play, “I’m just sick of hearing about it.”
Just imagine if the Northern Irishman manages to advance to Friday’s Sweet 16 it will be all anyone hears about. And that’s a shame.