Sixty Hellish Days


WINDERMERE, Fla. – When will Tiger Woods play next now that he has withdrawn from the Chevron World Challenge?

That wasn’t the compelling question after the news broke Monday.

With his tournament news conference now canceled, the question is when will Woods next speak publicly and what will he say?
Tiger Woods is facing a challenge unlike any on the golf course. (Getty Images)
That’s how upside down golf has turned since Woods crashed his SUV into a fire hydrant and tree outside his Isleworth mansion early Friday morning. For the first time more of us will be hanging on how straight and true his words ring than his tee shots fly.

He likely won’t play a tournament until the Century Club of San Diego Invitational, which begins on Jan. 28.

That’s 60 days.

Check that. That’s 60 hellish days if Woods doesn’t address the mysterious circumstances surrounding his crash.

You know who will relish those two months if Woods remains silent about the events that night of the crash? TMZ, National Enquirer, Star Magazine, People and other celebrity news and tabloid journalism outlets. They’ll be more than delighted to try to fill in the missing details Woods won’t provide.

In a bygone era, it might not have mattered, but celebrity news publications, supermarket tabloids and their Web sites are flourishing in a time when newspapers are going out of business and television news departments are slashing their staffs. People are getting their news in different ways now. It may be problematic, but it’s a fact of life.

Woods, 33, has been an exemplary role model in the more than decade that he’s ruled over his sport. Outside some cursing over bad shots and a few angrily tossed clubs, he’s avoided the pitfalls that have tarnished the images of so many stars of other sports.

An important question mainstream journalists must wrestle with in covering this story is over Woods’ right to privacy.

Even as a public figure, where does Woods’ right to privacy end and our right to know begin?

How much do we really have the right to know about what happened that night?

You can argue that whenever someone uses his popularity for profit, he forfeits a measure of privacy. When you allow your image to be used to sell golf clubs, cars or whatever, you are telling the public that the product is worth buying because of who you are. That opens the door fairly to the question: “Who the hell are you? Are you who we think you are?”

You can argue that when you use your popularity to profit, you’re making shareholders of the public who buy into you. They’re investing in you when they cheer for you or buy the products you are endorsing. They believe as shareholders they have a right to know you.

For some of us, that sounds good, but it’s also baloney.

It’s rationalizing because we know what’s really driving the demand to know what happened to Woods that night.

There’s an element of human nature that wants to know the most intimate details about our neighbors. “Hey, did you hear what happened to Johnny Doe’s wife?” It’s that simple. It’s what fuels celebrity sites and tabloid journalism. They wouldn’t be in business if people weren’t so eager to buy what they’re selling.

Woods’ determination to protect his family and personal life has always seemed noble, but even that’s being twisted in this maelstrom. The harder he fights to protect his privacy through this, the more he appears to be hiding something that’s less than noble.

For such a fiercely private man, this has to be agonizing. His wife, his two young children, they’re affected by all this, too.

The longer Woods goes without giving an explanation, the more painful the innuendo. Of course, there could be more pain explaining.

That’s the agonizing dilemma Woods faces between now and the 60 days before he tees it up in his next tournament.