Obama on Woods: Tiger Still "Terrific"

I don’t really know what is stranger — that President Barack Obama was on Fox TV or that he spoke about Tiger Woods. Either way apparently the president offered his good will for the golfer now that he’s preparing to come out of his sexile, and said he hoped Tiger wood get his personal life back on track.

Which gives me an entrance to discuss a few things relating to this story.

1) Tiger doesn’t owe anyone anything. There seems to be this opinion that Woods “owes” something to the fans because of his indiscretions. I think he owes his wife something, but I don’t see how he has to do another press conference and explain things. I’ve seen reporters say Woods owes an explanation on working with Dr. Tony Galea, the Toronto doctor under investigation in the U.S. for HGH use. Why would Woods say anything? I’m sure his lawyers have advised him to be quiet on the subject. Golfers don’t owe the public anything other than a performance on the course. Even that is selfish, considering a PGA Tour pro supports himself — this isn’t a team sport with a guaranteed contract. Did you buy something from Nike or use Accenture’s business services division because Tiger Woods’ name was attached and feel somehow misled? Tough. Get over it. You were stupid to use a consultancy because Woods was associated with it in the first place and if you bought something from AT&T because Woods can hit a driver 320 in to the wind, well then you have all the intelligence of a golf ball.

There seems to be this notion that Woods will get up at Augusta and there will be some sort of public catharsis where he gushes in front of the world. I think we’ve seen that happen once. I’m not sure it is helpful now — and he’s already said he isn’t going to answer questions about the details of his philandering.

2) I’m frankly tired of self-righteous reporters and columnists saying Woods has to provide us with further details. What do they want to know? About his favorite sexual positions? How the world’s largest sports star propositions a hostess at a Perkins? I mean I’m even interested in the answer for that last question and know too much about the first one already, but I don’t feel he is obliged to comment on it.

I’m apparently not the only one. In a clever column today in the Globe and Mail, golf writer Lorne Silverstein Rubenstein, offers his take on the situation, which has probably raised eyebrows among some readers (FYI: the entire piece is written as a conversation with a radio host who hits Rube up for an interview):

Q. I’d like to get back to whether he owes some answers. Will he even give a press conference at Augusta?

A. It would be surprising if he didn’t. But if he does? I’ll guess, and it’s a guess because nobody really knows anything here and anybody who says he does is kidding himself. But I’m thinking Tiger might open with a couple of comments about the work he’s been doing on his personal life, that it’s ongoing, that he realizes he made mistakes, and then he’ll shut it down.

Q. What do you mean?

A. He’ll answer questions about golf, and nothing else, for the rest of the week.

Q. You’re okay with that?

A. As I said, he doesn’t owe us any answers. Anyway, it’s not like he’s given us a lot of reasons to believe anything he might say about his personal life. Heck, I’d be okay if he didn’t do a press conference.

Q. You cannot be serious. Do you know how your online readers would respond to such a comment if it were in print?

A. I am serious. Besides, I don’t read their comments because of the anonymity factor. If I don’t know who’s writing something, I can’t really credit the notions expressed. Some people aren’t looking for a commentator’s considered (well or ill) response to an event; they’re looking for an opportunity to slag somebody.

BTW, Rubenstein has strong opinions on anonymity and the media, and isn’t a big supporter of anonymous comments on sites like this. He thinks it doesn’t lead to honest dialogue, just mean-spirited attacks. He’s probably right and we’ve talked about this subject on more than one occasion when discussing the changing face of media.

Regardless, I think this notion that Woods is going to give a press conference and talk about his personal life while at Augusta is naive. At majors he’s all business and let’s be clear on one thing — he thinks he can win at Augusta, which is why he’s playing. He’s not about to be distracted by questions about strippers and porn stars or HGH. And can you blame him? After all, there’s a good reason he picked the Masters for his comeback.

Hate to say it, but I’m in agreement with Ari Fleischer on this one:

“Obviously what Tiger did was horrendous in his personal life,” Fleischer says. “But he’s under no obligation to tell anyone the details about it. I believe he should draw a line in the sand between his golf and private matters. Being in public life doesn’t mean you have to succumb to the overwhelming curiosity factor that permeates everything in our society.”


Interesting to see Mike Weir comment to Canadian Press about Woods, especially since IMG is turning down media requests otherwise noting that Weir always does a pre-Masters conference call. Anyway, Weir had this to say:

“He’s proven a lot of people wrong (in the past) and taken time off and been able to come back and be sharp,” Weir said in an interview Wednesday. “I know he’s probably working extremely hard right now on his game. He can draw on a lot of great memories there, the course obviously suits him really well, all of those things kind of play in his favour.

“I wouldn’t be surprised one bit if he’s competitive there. He’s been the most dominant player for the last 10, 15 years – I wouldn’t put it past him to be right in contention.”

Anyway, Weir added that it is difficult to come back without any warm-up events:

“It’s hard to simulate on the driving range the different pressure you feel,” he said. “You can play with your buddies at your own club and play a $5 Nassau or something to have a little pressure on the line, but you’re not going to simulate what it is with thousands of people around you and you’re trying to stay focused.”

That said, how many events did Woods play before the Masters last year? Three. How many events that he typically plays has he missed since the car accident? Four — or five if you consider his charity event late last year as a real tournament. Some of the damned commentary on his so-called “comeback” makes it sound likes he’s been away for two years. It is really only a month or two, since he rarley plays in January anyway, and would have probably skipped the event in San Diego since his sponsor doesn’t control the title there any longer.


Finally, what about playing partners? A lot has been said about Weir as a potential selection. It makes sense. He’s a former Masters winner, and a friend of Tiger’s who hasn’t been judgmental, at least not publicly. Would it hurt Weir’s chances? Surely it wouldn’t help, but then again Woods always has big crowds at Augusta — so how would it really be that different?

However, one golf columnist suggested on Twitter, tongue planted firmly in cheek, that Woods would play as a onesome. Now that’s funny.

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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.

8 CommentsLeave a comment

  • They will probably give him some fluff group like Mark O’Meara and some poor amateur that was expected to shoot a zillion anyways. That way he won’t disrupt some guy that has a so-called legimate chance. Wouldn’t it be great though if they threw he and Mickelson and Els together???

  • Tiger made millions on his image. Given his image did not correlate with his behaviour, he defrauded the public. The public deserves an explanation, pure and simple. Not a controlled PR statement with no questions, but an honest explanation. Anything less shows a lack of integrity.

  • Weekend Enthusiast, that is crap! He made millions from his seemingly clean image from corporate sponsors, not form the public. It were these sponsors that were hoping to trade of this “image” to make more money. Buyer beware! He did not break the law (other than his fender bender) and therefore he owes no explanation to the public. None. Full stop! He is not the president and owes no duty of care to the general public. Anything he might owe to the corporate sponsors would have been dealt with during the contract negotiations and apparently was by virtue of many sponsors dropping him. I’m just as curious as the next guy (seriously, I would love to know all the details) but frankly its none of my business. This is between him and his family.

  • Jeff Curie:

    The issue is about ethics, values, and integrity. In this situation, corporate sponsors are a proxy for the public (given that is who their customers are and the reason why they engaged Tiger’s services – to sell more to the public). The public may not have a legal claim against him but they certainly have a moral claim. That is why the public deserves an explanation. Not to know the sordid details necessarily but an honest perspective of his behaviour not some sham of a PR prepared speech delivered to a friendly audience with staged hugs and interaction with family members.

    Public figures have a right to privacy but when they trade on their personal image for fame or dollars, they have entered into an implied agreement with the public regarding that image. For Tiger to blatantly disregard such responsibilities but presumably wants to return to his old life means he owes the public an explanation.

    But I suspect how people view this issue is a reflection of their own values. Some folks believe in the letter of the law while others follow the spirit of the law. Technically, Tiger did nothing wrong so he has a right to do as he pleases. Morally, he defrauded the public and as such owes them answers.

  • Weekend Enthusiast,
    Morally he defrauded the public? Whose morals? Jimmy Swaggert’s morals, your morals, RT’s morals?
    Wait, studies show that a large number of people particiapte in marital infidelity…should we update “our” morals?
    Owes explanantions? What?
    I think these public entitlements are of your own making, a fantasy that all famous people who try to sell you something are accountable to the public.
    He tried to sell you something and you bought it! In bulk and wholesale. That is perhaps YOUR problem.
    You wrote: ” Not to know the sordid details necessarily but an honest perspective of his behaviour”

    I would love your account of how he could express that.
    He was able and he was horny. You need him to spell that out to you? Sincere and with feeling?

    I kinda picture Frank Drebin explaining his meaningless sex life to Ed Hocken while Ed does all he can to control his drooling. Maybe you had to see the movie?

    There is a great deal of sarcasm in this note, but not nearly as much as I would have liked.


  • Tiger doesn’t owe an explanation. Let’s say he did go into an explanation: no matter what he said some would demand more and some would wonder why he bothered. What’s the point and where does it end? As for Obama commenting, this is nothing new. Ronald Reagan and other presidents often commented on the sports scene.

  • Given that a couple of posters (and RT and Lorne Rubenstein) for that matter) do not think that Tiger owes an explanation, the question comes up – when does anyone in the public sphere owe an explanation for any offside behaviour?…ever?

    One can always say that people deserve their privacy that whatever inappropriate behaviour occurred is between themselves and the offending party – so Joe Public, butt out!

    I find this attitude offensive. It shows lack of respect by the public figure for the very people that they are trying to convince to buy whatever product the public figure endorsed.

    Does anyone believe that Tiger would be the billion dollar wonder-boy if his real behaviour was known prior to securing those promotional contracts. Of course not. That is why he tried to hide it from public view as he knew he was defrauding the public.

    Tiger said in his apology press conference the following, and I quote:

    “Finally, there are many people in this room, and there are many people at home who believed in me. Today, I want to ask for your help. I ask you to find room in your heart to one day believe in me again.”

    I say…if you want that Tiger, then you owe the public an explanation and honest answers to the public’s questions. If you cannot or choose not to follow that path, then just go and play golf. The public is not buying anything you are selling as it is all a sham.

  • I don’t think Tiger owes an explanation to the public for his behaviour.

    I would like to hear why he held that douchey, phoney “press conference” in which he did apologize.

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