Spree pundits opine on the local
Mar 4, 2010
07:39 AMState of Play
Tiger needs golf, but golf needs him, too
Make that "Woe, Tiger" actually.
Ever since Tiger Woods had his auto ... "mishap," we'll call it ... last Thanksgiving, PGA Tour brass have been itching for the day their beloved poster boy will make his way back to the links, all crimes paid and forgotten.
They need him back in a big way, too. They're slipping precipitously down the backward path to irrelevance with the likes of Phil Mickelson, Mike Weir and Sergio Garcia as their main attractions. Tiger gives them instant credibility; a face everyone recognizes.
And for his part, Tiger's doing his best to, excuse the bad pun, repair his broken marriage to the PGA. He's been in damage-control mode ever since that fateful November night, playing along with the silly masquerade of contrived, super-engineered media statements and obligatory horn-dog rehab. (By the way, one wonders if the sessions are half as ridiculous as the notion of "sex addiction" itself. Oh, to be a fly on the wall!)
He'd better get used to it. Because it's clear to me that it's too late to stop this runaway train from forever tarnishing Tiger's career, no matter how his well-oiled media machine pushes, pulls, sculpts and maneuvers. It's not like it was one indiscretion with one girl. No, we're talking about a cast of characters and storylines that would make Hef blush. It'll torment him like a ruptured appendix that can't be removed.
Sure, Tiger will return to the tour soon enough, but the Tiger the PGA and its followers once adulated and idolized is never coming back, try as he might. Not with the kind of baggage that would require Lou Ferrigno and Dwayne Johnson as skycaps.
Know that when he does return, Tiger's PR problem will also becomes those of the PGA; his every move closely chronicled by the dregs of "journalism" in the form of tawdry, empty-headed drivelmongers like TMZ and Inside Edition.
Something tells me it's the last kind of attention and company PGA officials would ever want. Yet, here they'll be, having to wince at the crushing reality of granting media passes to folks who report back to Billy Bush and Ryan Seacrest, maybe shooing photographers from trees lining fairways like you'd clear roaches from a discarded pizza box.
Their once-glorious and sqeaky clean sport will now be uttered in the same breath as "... Brett Michaels, Flavor Flav, Danny Bonaducci, and Tila Tequila in I'm a Celebrity, Where's the First Tee? ... (Maybe Dr. Drew can caddy, and Kendra Baskett will surely be desperate for new work by then).
Perhaps Tour organizers and sponsors haven't thought that far ahead yet. But it will dawn on them, sooner or later, when their once-gentlemanly, conservative facade becomes splattered with the endless rumor, innuendo and trash accompanying Tiger's battered reputation. And they might be surprised with America's insatiable appetite for this kind of "news." Something tells me--isolated as they are from the lowbrow, lobotomized netherworld of In Touch and Entertainment Tonight—they haven't made the connection yet.
Let's make it for them: No matter how many tournaments Woods wins or wonderful records he eclipses from here on out, there will be an accompanying clip about Elin's latest move, or perhaps a byte about the latest tell-all books the stripper/hooker from Vegas or the porn star from L.A. are penning and promoting. Right or wrong, he'll never live this down completely, and recaps of his next Masters victory may well be sandwiched between news about Speidi's new book and Lindsay Lohan's latest brush with the law.
For everyone who questions "How will he navigate this 150-yard approach shot?," three more will beg the burning question "Who are the kids staying with?," and "What are they wearing to school these days?"
Naturally, the Tour won't want this kind of coverage. But it won't be their decision to make.
And will they be allowed to ban the entertainment press pool from post-tourney press conferences? For goodness' sake, if they can track down Leo DiCaprio on his own island in the Caribbean, and if they tracked down Woods' children's school and his wife's isolated Swedish getaway, they'll easily be able to follow Mr. Woods off the eighteenth green.
How long before other players become resentful of these distractions, perhaps to the point where they question the wisdom and value of having Tiger around? Who will want to be paired with him in any tour stop, trying to focus on their game with so much money at stake?
So, will the tour actually be glad to welcome him back into the fold once its stuffy execs realize what kind of moronic circus he'll be dragging in his wake?
Be careful what you wish for, PGA Tour. There's a wolf at the door and he poses a disquieting PR problem: golf and the way it's covered might be changing forever, and most certainly not for the better.