What exactly does the media want from Tiger Woods in his Masters press conference tomorrow? The truth, most of them will say. What does that mean? The truth as in the gory detail of his affairs? The truth as in the unedited version of that crash on his drive which triggered the revelations of this scandal? Or simply the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?
Probably the latter, as the absurd billing of this 2pm meeting with 120 journalists has it as judgement day. But judgement of what? Sure, Woods may have a weak case for claiming his right to privacy, seeing as he has used his private life in the past to pull in the readies. But he still has rights. And he should still have a private life.
If he doesn't want to talk about the whens and the wheres of his transgressions, that's up to him. If he thinks that by giving a full and frank account of what led to that prang with a fire hydrant he will implicate his wife, that is also up to him. He need say nothing. If and when he doesn't, there shouldn't be mutterings of discontent. It will have nothing to do with him being a control freak and everything to do with him being a human being desperately clinging to the last remnants of his dignity. The two shouldn't be confused.
But just as it is important that the journalists do not blur the lines in some misguided yearning to seek revenge for belligerence in the past, so it's vital for Woods to understand what should and shouldn't be off limits. For starters he must clear up a few areas in which he has been perceived to have lied since his re-emergence.
Two weeks ago, in one of those backfiring five-minute interviews he granted to two American broadcasters, Woods insisted no members of his management were complicit in the logistics of his affairs. Since then, interviews with some of his alleged mistresses have cast grave doubt over his claims. Does it matter if his entourage helped or not? To his ongoing reputation it does. Either way, he can't leave the suspicions hanging in the air as cynicism would accompany Team Tiger everywhere. Right or wrong, moving on would prove impossible.
Then there is Dr Anthony Galea, a sports medic under investigation from the Feds for administering performance-enhancing drugs to athletes. A few weeks ago I wrote a column saying Woods must come clean about his involvement with the Canadian and my inbox soon jammed up with furious readers who accused me of (1) conducting a witch-hunt and (2) implying he was guilty with no evidence. I did neither. In his own Orlando home, Woods was treated by a doctor unregistered to practise in Florida. That fact alone warrants a question, doesn't it? As does Dr Galea's own admission that he has used human growth hormone on his patients in the past.
It's not just muck-racking journalists who feel the need to hear his response; there are fellow professionals, too, pros who consider themselves allies of Woods, such as Brad Faxon. "I'm much more concerned about Tiger being treated by the Toronto doctor, Anthony Galea, who was arrested in Canada last October on drug charges, a doctor who admits to using human growth hormone," said Faxon last week in Sports Illustrated. "I don't think Tiger would use HGH, but he should say exactly how he was treated by Galea."
Again Woods must not leave this dangling. For his own good. "I have never used performance-enhancing drugs," will not be enough. We need to know why he chose this particular doctor and if he now regrets doing so. Also, have the Feds contacted him yet? Any high-profile sportsperson would face these questions and Woods must realise he is no different to any other high-profile sportsperson.
But then, whatever he says, however he acts, the charge will still come that he does think of himself as "different". If you can Google the phrase "same old Tiger" on Tuesday morning and not gain at least one news hit then there is something up with your connection. We saw this unconditional non-faith in his sincerity after the televised statement in February but I, for one, still cannot believe that what we viewed in that excruciating 14 minutes was purely part of a PR operation.
Many of us still can't grasp why he felt the need to open up in public and issue his apology. We wish he hadn't. If nothing else, the important questions would not be in danger of being lumped in with the irrelevant and downright intrusive if he had kept his remorse indoors. Now the "I already said that in my statements" will likely ring across the Augusta auditorium and the whole sorry speculation game will continue. Tomorrow Woods has the chance to draw a few lines.
Did he have to stage that mea culpa slam bam in the middle of a World Golf Championship event? Couldn't he have waited 10 days or so, when he had finished his second bout of rehab? What is his addiction, will it affect his schedule? Why is he coming back at The Masters? Is it because he is scared of the reaction he will receive from less-controlled galleries? How does he think the scandal will affect his golf? Will he look at himself the same way down the stretch? Will the same edge be there? Is he serious that he will try to control his temper and cut out the club-throwing and swearing? Is he worried this suppression could prove detrimental to his golf? As he now looks back, does he feel "his secret life" cost him any tournaments? When, where? Does he still feel pain in his knee? Does he use painkillers, opiates even?
All these questions pertain to his profession, not his personal life. They could and should be answered honestly without fear of recrimination. The majority of us don't want to hear about how "ashamed" he is or how "disgusted" he is with his former self. Best save that for therapy. This is not a confession booth, it's a golf press conference. Keep it to the sport. But don't sidestep the questions just because he might consider them unsporting. It will drag on and on otherwise.
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