After what had to be the toughest two years of his life, a beacon of hope emerged last Sunday for Tiger Woods: He won a golf tournament for the first time in 749 days.
The fact that he beat 17 other players rather than the usual 143 does put a small asterisk beside the win but doesn’t tell the whole story. Tiger needed a W, period. For his mental state. To validate his new swing changes. To feel completely healthy again.
And to help put the past two years just a little bit more behind him.
If you look up fall from grace in the dictionary, you’d see a shot of Tiger at that awkward-as-hell “news conference” where he admitted to marital infidelity and apologized to the nation and the world for his transgressions, all in a carefully-worded statement. He then walked off the stage, not giving the reporters in the room a chance to ask questions which, you know, is sort of the whole idea of a news conference.
It was yet another example of the constantly-churning, all-encompassing PR machine that has surrounded Tiger since he famously uttered the words, “Hello, world” back in August of 1996.
A completely fabricated message from his PR team:
Tiger is a devoted family man. He has a beautiful Swedish wife and two cute kids. Oh, and he has a dog, too. He’s not against cats (because we don’t want to alienate cat lovers) but he’s always been more of a dog kind of guy. He treasures the value of family and the inseparable bond he had with his late father. Oh, and he’s one hell of a golfer and has a competitive streak that rivals that of Michael Jordan and Muhammad Ali. He won’t talk much during tournaments because he’s too busy winning them but he’ll entertain thoughtful questions with stock answers after crushing the field. Oh, and he can’t be fooled. He won’t get sucked into your journalistic head games. He will never say anything close to controversial because we don’t want to alienate anybody who wears Nike products, drinks Gatorade, pays with AmEx or wears a Rolex. Or does their consulting through Accenture. Or drives a Buick. (Puts hand over microphone) How many sponsors does this guy have?
But Tiger didn’t entertain any questions at that post-fire hydrant “news conference.” (By the way, I will continue to put “news conference” in quotes so as not to belittle real news conferences). There’s a well-known saying in PR that those under fire should always “get ahead of the story.” In Tiger’s case, it took him more than two months to hold the “news conference.” And he didn’t answer questions from reporters until the 2011 Masters, a full five months after the fire hydrant. As the kids would say, an epic getting-ahead-of-the-story fail.
Tiger’s silence and his failure to set the record straight only intensified the rumours and the rampant speculation. How many girls were there? What actually happened on that night? We’ll probably never find out but here’s one take.
All of a sudden, his face was splashed on newspaper covers around the world for something other than golf, including 20 straight covers of the New York Post, beating out the previous record of 19 set by…wait for it…9/11!
That this machine failed when he needed it most has to be one of the biggest PR hiccups ever. While Tiger was sitting at home wondering how any of this could have happened, new girls kept coming out of the woodwork saying they slept with him. He became the butt of jokes around the water cooler. Sponsors started seriously reconsidering the Woods brand. His wife left him. His game left him. He entered a custody battle for his two kids. His caddie (and best man at his wedding) eventually left him. It seemed like EVERYBODY was talking about Tiger while he, himself, didn’t say a word. This is THE worst way to rein in rumors. At a certain point, you have to defend yourself.
Now, I do not condone cheating in any way, shape or form but I do have my suspicions that some of these girls were looking for their 15 minutes and claiming to have slept with Tiger seemed like a good way to get it. I also feel that, in general, Tiger is a good person who made mistakes. We all do.
That’s why it was so rewarding to watch him win a golf tournament this past Sunday. In a way, the world (or at least the golfing world) sort of made sense again.
Death will come. Taxes will be paid. And Tiger Woods wins golf tournaments. The third is true, yet again.
The winning putt: