JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – First came photos of Tiger Woods jogging. Far more compelling will be the sound of his voice.
Woods has not been heard in the 78 days since a magazine released a voicemail that he allegedly left one of the women to whom he has been romantically linked, pleading with her to remove his number from her cell phone.
That changes at 11 a.m. EST Friday when Woods makes his first public appearance since crashing his car into a tree outside his Florida home Nov. 27, sparking sordid revelations of infidelity.
The big question is what will he say? The topic was intriguing Americans – Woods was a trendy subject on Twitter a full day before his appearance.
Almost as intriguing is which “friends, colleagues and close associates” will be in the Sunset Room on the second floor of the Mediterranean-style clubhouse at the TPC Sawgrass.
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, who made the clubhouse available and is offering logistical help, has said he would attend, and as many as four other members of his executive staff will be in the room.
A British bookmaker has set odds at 4-to-7 that Woods wife, Elin, will be with him. William Hill didn’t stop there, however. It offers 8-to-1 odds that Woods will announce he is getting a divorce, 12-to-1 odds that his wife is pregnant and 100-to-1 odds that he is retiring.
“While Tiger feels that what happened is fundamentally a matter between he and his wife, he also recognizes that he has hurt and let down a lot of other people who were close to him,” his agent, Mark Steinberg, said in an e-mail Wednesday. “He also let down his fans. He wants to begin the process of making amends and that’s what he’s going to discuss.”
Instead of going on “Oprah” or another national television show to break the ice, Woods essentially will be speaking to the lone camera allowed in the room. It will be televised live via satellite.
Three networks – ABC, CBS and NBC – will carry the statement live. ESPN will have it live on all its platforms, including Internet streaming, radio and mobile. The Golf Channel will start coverage at 10:30 a.m.—call it a 30-minute pregame show.
Steinberg invited three reporters from wire services – The Associated Press, Reuters and Bloomberg – and he turned to the Golf Writers Association of America to come up with a pool of three reporters.
GWAA president Vartan Kupelian, who is retired from The Detroit News and now contributes to pgatour.com, asked the group’s officers. That means Kupelian is going, along with second vice president Bob Harig of espn.com. Kupelian said the first vice president, Mark Soltau, declined. Along with working for Golf Digest, Soltau is the editor of tigerwoods.com.
Kupelian said he still does not have a third GWAA member, and he is lobbying Woods’ camp for a larger pool. A large faction of the GWAA board wants to boycott the appearance because of Steinberg’s rules – no questions are allowed.
“This is not a press conference,” Steinberg said Wednesday, the same day photos of Woods jogging in Florida were released.
Woods has always been about control, even in better times. He refused to go into the media center before a PGA Tour event if he was not the defending champion. If he agreed to a 10-minute interview to pitch a product he endorses, it was common for a company employee to be in the room making sure it didn’t go one second beyond that.
But having not heard from Woods – except for three statements on his Web site – in three months, this event has taken on a life of its own.
Conversation raged online, as many took glee in speculating on what Woods will say Friday.
The golfer was the hottest topic on Google Trends. On Twitter, Tiger Woods was a dominant topic.
One of the most popular threads were tweets with the tag “tigershouldsay.” Suggestions were predominantly sarcastic, such as: “At least I didn’t use steroids.”
Live events during work hours on weekdays have traditionally meant for robust traffic on the Web, since many viewers will be at work in front of computers, rather than home in front of TVs.
The PGA Tour will have two tournaments in progress Friday, including the third round of the Accenture Match Play Championship, the first title sponsor to drop Woods during this sex scandal. Some players did not think it was a coincidence.
Most of them, however, will be just like everyone else – curious what Woods has to say, and how he says it.
“It has to be held at some stage,” Padraig Harrington said. “The sooner he makes a statement, the better. And the sooner he’s back to playing golf – he’s pretty good at playing golf – the better.”
AP Television Writer Frazier Moore and AP Entertainment Writer Jake Coyle contributed to this report.