Tigers Nightmare


WINDERMERE, Fla. – Corporal Irvin Murr was grilled with questions late Saturday morning in the parking lot of the Windermere Police Department as he prepared to depart for his rounds.

The inquisition didn’t come from media trying to pry details about what led Tiger Woods to crash his SUV into a fire hydrant and tree near his mansion in the early morning hours Friday, but from an irate citizen upset that up to 10 TV trucks were camped along the street outside the gates of the Isleworth community where Woods lives.

Thirty or so vehicles belonging to reporters, photographers and camera crews were squeezed between signs that marked the area as a tow-away zone.

Golf Channel and ESPN were there, but the sports crews were outnumbered by the news crews. CNN, Fox, ABC, NBC, CBS and their local news affiliates all had reporters there doing remote reports.

“Why don’t you tow them away?” the citizen barked more than asked.

“We’re not enforcing that today,” Murr said.

Where’s Stevie Williams when you need him? Woods’ caddie, who disdains cameras nearly as much as his boss, wouldn’t have liked the spectacle outside Isleworth in the two days after Woods’ crash. Never have the walls Woods has worked so hard to build around his personal life come so close to being breached.

This is Woods’ nightmare.

No matter how innocent his explanation as to what happened early Friday morning may be, he’s enduring a media onslaught the likes of which he’s never seen. In fact, it rivals anything golf has ever seen.

Black Friday took on a different meaning in the world of golf this week.

It was a momentous day because it marked the first time the sport’s protective barrier has been breached by celebrity, gossip and supermarket tabloid journalism.

It may be remembered as the day the paparazzi discovered golf.

TMZ, People and the National Enquirer are all digging into this story.

Actually, their breach of the golf world started two days before the accident, when the National Enquirer featured a story alleging Woods has been having an extramarital affair with a New York night club hostess. Rachel Uchitel, the woman named, denied the accusation when contacted by the Associated Press.

TMZ.com reported that Woods told a friend that an argument between himself and his wife, Elin, preceded the accident. There were other details about a domestic dispute.

Windermere police chief Daniel Saylor told media that Woods’ wife said she broke the window after she heard the accident and “supposedly got him out and laid him on the ground.” Saylor said Woods was in and out of consciousness when his officers got there.

Saylor said his officers heard nothing about an alleged domestic dispute.

The nature of our information age has changed, and nobody in golf is enduring the troubling repercussions of that more than Woods. People are getting their news long before their newspaper hits the driveway or even before the nightly TV news airs before their bedtime, and they aren’t getting it all from traditional outlets.

Celebrity journalism, and the intrusion it brings into the private lives of public figures, is flourishing on the airwaves and on the Web. It’s getting impossible to ignore.

Golf always seemed exempt from that, but not anymore.

Woods, 33, has been married five years. He and his wife have two children. Through more than a decade at the top of his sport, at the top of the sporting world, Woods has lived an exemplary public life. Outside some tossed clubs and some angry cursing over bad shots, he’s avoided the problems that have plagued so many NBA, NFL and Major League Baseball stars.

Woods may have an innocent explanation about what happened, but his declining to meet with Florida Highway Patrol officers for a second consecutive day on Saturday only fuels speculation that does Woods no service. It doesn’t serve the sport, either. Woods is human, and never have more searing eyes waited to see just how human.