There were no emergency personnel dispatched to Tiger Woods’ Isleworth estate on Wednesday. No 911 calls or press conferences or prepared statements delivered via website, marking what those within “Team Tiger” must only be hoping is an end to the longest 15 minutes in the history of recorded time.
Fourteen days ago the clock began ticking with a clash of car and fire hydrant while the rest of the world was sleeping off tryptophan-induced comas. Woods’ injuries turned out to be minor, thankfully, and we’ve been waiting to exhale ever since.
With Tuesday’s happenings – a medical emergency involving Woods’ mother-in-law and additional reports of infidelity – his handlers have to believe the bottom is close.
If the end is near it is time to turn the Kindle to the next chapter, if not an altogether new genre.
Where Woods goes from here personally is between he and his wife, Elin. He’s made that clear and no amount of public pressure or pundit preaching is going to change that. However, what the next few months have in store professionally for the world No. 1 is a compelling exercise in conjecture.
Woods has started three of his last four seasons at Torrey Pines, with the lone exception being this year when he was still recovering from knee surgery. Pre-Nov. 27, the seaside muni had the look of a lottery winner considering that Woods and a resurgent Phil Mickelson appeared on a collision course to start 2010 in SoCal, and Woods’ caddie Steve Williams reportedly told the New Zealand Herald last week that the duo’s first tournament of the year would be in San Diego.
But Woods’ run-in with the Isleworth shrub, fire hydrant and tree, and the subsequent fall out would make Torrey Pines – which is just a short drive from L.A. and the center of the tabloid press universe – a media nightmare.
Another suggestion being floated in blog-dom over recent days is for Woods to start next year at the SBS Championship in Hawaii.
If Woods stays on script and commits at the deadline (5 p.m. ET the Friday before the tournament), he would make it logistically difficult for all but the most dedicated news agencies to make it to the island which would have a limited number of satellite trucks available for the electronic media. His commitment would also come after the credential request deadline, giving tournament officials a legitimate reason to deny access if they wanted.
Or, he could wait until the Masters to surface – sprinkling in European Tour starts in Abu Dhabi or Dubai, where he played in 2008, to ready his game for the first major. When he makes the turn onto Magnolia Lane it will have been nearly five months since his “Black Friday” fender-bender and Augusta National officials could all but guarantee an interview room free of the tabloid press that has dogged him the last two weeks.
But make no mistake, recent suggestions that Woods could sit out 2010 altogether miss the point, if not the man. Woods is a Grand Slam away from Jack Nicklaus’ once-unbreakable record of 18 majors, the end of the rainbow for Woods since he was a lad growing up in Cypress, Calif. This close to the finish line, a healthy Woods has too much moxie to watch from the sidelines, regardless of what may await him in the media center.
Besides, next year’s major rota is the Grand Slam equivalent of low-hanging fruit for Woods. Whistling Straits (PGA) is the only stop where he’s not won and the last two majors at Pebble Beach (2000 U.S. Open) and St. Andrews (2005 British Open) he won by a combined 20 strokes.
Of course, these are all stop-gap measures. Where ever and whenever Woods returns he will be pursued and pressed for answers. Yet whichever competitive route “Team Tiger” takes it’s clearly time to stop playing defense and devise an exit strategy.
Until now the camp has been playing catch up, reacting to news rather than setting the agenda. In their defense, it’s the nature of these types of situations, but it is between the ropes where the most private of men can make a very public statement. All of which makes picking the correct ropes the next big question.