In the wake of numerous published reports of alleged infidelity the world No. 1 relented in his own guarded way: “I have let my family down and I regret those transgressions with all of my heart. I have not been true to my values and the behavior my family deserves. I am not without faults and I am far short of perfect.”
And for the third consecutive public statement Woods stressed how important his privacy is to himself and his family. In fact, of the five paragraphs Woods penned on Wednesday, three fixated on the issue of privacy and the actions of the media the last few days.
When it came to Woods’ situation with the Florida Highway Patrol and his Friday morning run in with a shrub, a hedge, a fire hydrant and, finally, a neighbor’s tree, there was a compelling public interest, just as there was two years ago when Arjun Atwal was in the wrong place at the wrong time on a central Florida road not far from Isleworth.
Whatever domestic issues Woods and his wife may or may not be having, however, are like Vegas – what happens at One Woods Place stays at One Woods Place. There is no unwritten right to all the juicy details of an athlete’s private life regardless of how zealously the entertainment press pursues or the public craves.
Yet, the questions remain: Where does Woods go from here? What is the best way to move on?
There is precedent for Woods’ crisis management conundrum, call it the mea culpa cameo. You know the drill, superstar gets sideways with the law or the wife or the league, takes his public relations lumps and next thing you know he’s on a couch next to Oprah spilling the goods and asking for forgiveness.
Kobe Bryant – who was charged with a crime, a far more appalling act than anything being lobbed at Woods’ reputation – did it, moved on and won his NBA Championship sans Shaq. Alex Rodriguez – who not only violated baseball’s doping rules but lied about it until he couldn’t lie about it anymore – did it and is now treated like he hung the moon in the Bronx.
Lost in all the “expert” crisis management chatter is the simple truth that contrition and winning are the ultimate tonics to what ails an image. Woods may want to remain behind the central Florida ivy and let his 316-word final word stand. He may want to cling to the ideal of privacy, but that yacht has sailed.
“His image will take a little hit,” said Steve Stricker, who spent more time paired with or against Woods this year than any other Tour player. “I’d like to see him come on TV and pour it out a little bit ... I’m on that line, that fence. Do we really need to know? That’s the bottom line.”
Do we need to know? Of course not. Will a well-executed and timely televised apology – combined with a rousing victory at, say, Torrey Pines next January – help smooth the transition out of crisis mode? Of course it will.
Some have criticized Camp Tiger since “Black Friday,” saying they didn’t move quick enough to gain the public relations higher ground. Those people don’t know Woods, who has won 14 major championships and 71 Tour titles doing things his way.
Rocky Hambric knows the feeling. Hambric, president of Hambric Sports Management, found himself in a similar situation at this year’s British Open when one of clients, Sandy Lyle, became embroiled in a very public spat with Colin Montgomerie.
“I took heat at the Open Championship for Sandy, there’s nothing you can do,” Hambric said. “The (Daily Mail) writer knew nothing about me or what I advised Sandy to do and still criticized my actions. Same as American writers don’t know anything about Tiger’s situation and keep criticizing Mark (Steinberg, Woods’ manager with IMG). In our situation you have to do the best you can within what the client wants you to do.”
So far it remains clear Woods wants to keep an in-house matter in-house, regardless of what a room full of well-meaning experts tell him. That’s worked for a decade through a series of minor scrapes with controversy, but this is different.
This is K2 to the mole hill that was Fuzzy Zoeller, a Sunday power walk to that triathlon that was that controversial GQ article. But with time, and a cameo on Oprah’s couch to expedite the process, he will recover. Just ask Kobe and A-Rod.