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Tiger Talks — But Is He Really Saying Anything?

In another of what I expect are carefully considered and scripted events, Tiger Woods offered two five minute interviews today, both done at Isleworth in Florida. One was done with the Golf Channel, and can be viewed on their site, while the other was with ESPN. Both interviews were slightly longer than five minutes — which Golf Channel interviewer Kelly Tilghman said was the only restriction placed on her.

I’ll stop there and address that. Having conducted numerous interviews in my life with firm time restraints (Bill Gates comes to mind), I’ll say that being told you have a firm time to conduct an interview is a restriction of sorts. In the case of the Golf Channel and ESPN (ESPN’s interview is hereand Golf Channel’s is here), both interviewers asked about the Nov. 28 car accident. Both were given the response from Tiger that “it is all in the police report.” That’s clearly not the case, and Woods even says in the ESPN interview that whatever caused the crash is “between Elin and myself,” which seems like a clear indication that more took place on that night than we know.

Here’s my point — if ESPN or GC then go after Woods for that, push him on it and get the same non-answer over and over, they will have wasted much of their alloted five minutes. If Woods sticks to his training on the subject (and there’s no doubt he been coached extensively, regardless of whether the Golf Channel pundits think he’s been humble and honest) then the interview might amount to little other than evasive responses to a question that is posed in different ways. And that strategy comes with the risk that the subject might stay on point and the interviewer will miss other important questions. That’s why having a hard timeline on an interview really plays into the subject’s hand.

Interestingly, as I was finishing this post I discovered a USA Today story saying CBS turned down the chance to interview Woods because of the time limit:

That, says CBS’ LeslieAnne Wade, is why you didn’t see Woods on CBS Sunday. The network, she says, was offered the same kind of five-minute chat Sunday afternoon that ESPN and the Golf Channel snapped up and aired Sunday night ” but passed because of the time limit. Not that CBS, which airs The Masters, isn’t interested in talking to Woods. Says Wade: “Depending on the specifics, we are interested in an extended interview without any restrictions on CBS.”

It’s almost amazing anybody would turn down Woods’ “first interview,” as both ESPN and Golf Channel billed its sit-downs. The Golf Channel’s Dan Higgins says Woods did not want interview footage to air until NBC’s PGA Tour coverage had concluded.

ESPN and Golf Channel got to pick their interviewers ”Tom Rinaldi and Kelly Tilghman, respectively ” and no subjects were off-limits.

Asked whether it’s unusual for subjects to dictate interview lengths and air times, ESPN’s Mike Soltys said “it’s not very common. But this circumstance isn’t very common either.” Said Golf Channel’s Higgins: “I don’t know if it’s unusual. Every circumstance is different.”

What the time limit means is the interview was more of the same. Woods offering to, in the words of the Golf Channel’s talking heads, “take ownership,” for the debacle. And just like when he’d come off the course after shooting 65 and offer trite, flippant answers about his game, he now offers little of substance beyond canned retreads from his speech from a month ago. If you’re going to get out in front of the world, at least says something of substance. At one point in the GC interview he blames his problems on the fact he got “away from my core values,” later adding he “stopped meditating.” Right. If you had continued meditating you wouldn’t have had any interest in doing nasty things to a one-time porn star — is that what I’m supposed to take away from all of this?

I think the ESPN interview, conducted by Tom Rinaldi, is clearly the stronger of the two, if only because he asks the question many have been thinking: “Why did you get married?” It was this question, along with several others at the end of the interview that I thought were the most telling:

Rinaldi: In the last four months, Tiger, what’s been the low point?

Woods: I’ve had a lot of low points. Just when I didn’t think it could get any lower, it got lower.

Rinaldi: An example?

Woods: When I was in treatment, out of treatment, before I went in, there were so many different low points. People I had to talk and face like my wife, like my mom.

Rinaldi: What was that moment like, either one?

Woods: They both have been brutal. They’ve both been very tough. Because I hurt them the most. Those are the two people in my life who I’m closest to and to say the things that I’ve done, truthfully to them, is … honestly … was … very painful.

Rinaldi: What was your wife’s reaction when you sat down and had that first conversation?
Woods: She was hurt, she was hurt. Very hurt. Shocked. Angry. And, you know, she had every right to be and I’m as disappointed as everyone else in my own behavior because I can’t believe I actually did that to the people I loved.

Rinaldi: I ask this question respectfully, but of course at a distance from your family life. When you look at it now, why did you get married?

Woods: Why? Because I loved her. I loved Elin with everything I have. And that’s something that makes me feel even worse, that I did this to someone I loved that much.

Rinaldi: How do you reconcile what you’ve done with that love?

Woods: We work at it.

Immediately after doing the Woods interview, the Golf Channel became the “Tiger Channel” once again. That said, I thought there was little of value added, aside from John Hawkins suggestion that Tilghman might have asked about the so-called “long list” of 14 or so women Woods has allegedly had affairs with. His response would probably have been evasive, but it would have demonstrated that Golf Channel wasn’t pulling any punches. I’d have rather heard that question than one about the silver Buddhist bracelet Woods now wears for strength.

ESPN’s Bob Harig has his take on the Woods interviews, while the Wall Street Journal’s John Paul Newport also weighs in.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

9 CommentsLeave a comment

  • More PR bullsh*t. The script is clear, Tiger has it well versed, and it offers up little. An opportunity lost by a man that could do so much and has tossed it aside.

    Admire his golf swing as there is little else.

  • Why Tiger feels the need to apologize to us (general public) is beyond me. This really is a private matter between himself and his wife. I may be in the minority but I enjoy watching Tiger the golfer, I could care less about what he does in his personal life.

    To those who feel Tiger needs to “come clean” and spill all the intimate details, I would say look in the mirror and get a life.

  • Hamilton – I think Tiger has to take one of two routes, and right now he is playing the middle.

    Don’t apologize, say it is private, play golf. Not a bad approach.

    or

    Do an interview session that doesn’t feel like part of a continuing long con.

    Come clean or don’t, that is fine. Don’t act like you are coming clean when you aren’t.

  • Every time he says something or issues a statement, he just digs himself a deeper hole because he is not being honest or open. I can’t understand why his handlers fail to see that. Last night was simply more managed spin and offered little new. It certainly did not address the fraud that his private life has been shown to have been, nor why we should believe a word of anything that comes out of his mouth as a result.

  • I would have been more impressed if TGC had allowed Alex Miceli to do the interview.

    That’s what I wanna see….not his buddy at TGC.

  • Hamilton asks “Why Tiger feels the need to apologize to us (general public) is beyond me.”

    Why, because we’ve enriched him and Nike and a whole host of others beyond the wildest imaginings of most of us. And he wants us to keep enriching him. He has been honest about one thing only, he had and still has a deep sense of entitlement. He worked hard! Please, millions of people work a lot harder just to survive and never expect millions of dollars or accolades or even acknowledgement. Tiger has always wanted to surpass Jack and I would submit he has done that, in the sleaze department. No matter how he tries to spin it now.

  • RT Talks — But Is He Really Saying Anything? Not really, RT just goes on and on without any research, and without any idea of what comes out of his keystrokes, all full of sound and fury signifying nothing. RT, move on. There is nothing you can add to this story, but blah blah blah blah blah….all just bs. I don’t really care what you say and I only read a few words of your blog, because you are a big nobody.

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