The Last Word: Tiger the ethics man has no right to privacy

Woods can't complain about intrusion if he opens doors to sponsors and cameras whenever it suits
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The Independent Online

At least two things were inevitable when Tiger Woods decided to go drive-about 10 days ago at 2.28am and proceeded to drive about 223 yards into his neighbour's sycamore.

The first was that the world and its gossip media would not be entirely satisfied with the "minor traffic accident" explanation propounded by the Woods publicity army and would embark on a spot of excavating. And the second was that in the ensuing muckraking the old right-to-privacy argument would be revisited.

What cannot have been predicted, however, was that it was Woods himself who would launch the philosophical debate – in the second half of a statement in which he admitted to some extra-maritals which shall forever be known as "transgressions". With two children under the age of three, this was a brave time to be feeling ethical, although, as they say, you don't become the greatest player the game has ever seen without possessing a certain amount of chutzpah.

Alas, Woods's courageous clambering back up to the moral high ground was always doomed to be a Sisyphean task. The dirty diggers were hardly going to stop because of the poor man's suffering, and even those who did seek to admonish the majority of the human race for finding intrigue in the most bizarre "minor traffic accident" ever to hit the newsstands, would have to bring up the poor man's grotty deeds all over again.

There is nothing more ironic in journalism than a column preaching about these vile and inherently wrong intrusions into a sportsman's family life. "We need another page on Tiger, but how do we do that without looking cruel," ponders the news-desk editor. "Simple. Have another page on Tiger saying how disgusting it is we have all these pages on Tiger. It'll be a good place to use a picture of Miss Grubbs."

Of course, the only correct modus operandi for the offended journalist in this regard would be to keep his laptop shut. But they can't, because it's too tempting and too damned satisfying not to write about. In truth, they could merely cut and paste the last "right to privacy" sporting entreaty, because the points are just the same as when David Beckham was caught. Becks is not an elected official... it only matters what Woods does on the course, not in the bedroom... we would not pry like this if he was an ordinary man... what exactly do we want from our sporting heroes?

I tell you what I'd quite like from them: some consistency. So when Woods is asked to describe in a press conference just how beautiful his baby is and how life-changing it has been to become a father he says: "Nope, sorry. That's my private life. Off limits." And when his sponsors ask for permission to use some of his family's old footage of Woods and his recently deceased father to promote their goods he says: "Nope, sorry. That's my private life. Off limits."

Yes, Woods did allow Nike to sift through his home videos and edit some touching scenes of Earl and Tiger for an advert which was screened on Father's Day with the message: "To Dad and Fathers Everywhere." This was 2006 and Earl had been dead six weeks. As Nike sought to bang out their drivers to Pop for $299.99 a pop, never has the RRP been merged with the RIP so shamelessly. As intrusion goes, this seemed pretty vile to me.

Where was his right to privacy then, or indeed in the times when magazines have been invited into his house – at a price – to take pictures of Woods, his wife and his children? Does a right to privacy mean that it is a sportsperson's right to claim privacy whenever he chooses to? If so, that would be one of the best deals on earth – a win-win situation if ever there was one.

Instead, we have a win-whinge situation. So when you have something positive to promote in your private life, you call in the cameras. Yet when something negative bursts into your home, because of your actions, you pull up the shutters and bleat about the fairness of it all.

You can't have it all. Yet that is clearly the problem with Woods. No doubt all this scandalising has gone over the top. But it wasn't going to go any other way. Woods has spent thousands, if not millions, on PR to cultivate this cleaner than clean image and it would be daft, if not ever so slightly pompous, to think that the revelation of the lie would not be reported in all its sordid detail. We are talking of the destruction of a wide-scale myth here and one which, whatever the intentions of the destroyers, ultimately assisted his wife in discovering the full deceit.

An interesting aspect will be how other sporting superstars act in the wake of this demonisation of Woods. There surely are some lessons. The second most obvious one would be for any like-minded genius with his eyes on domination not to present himself as anything other than a brilliant sportsman. It wasn't Tiger's fault that his old man said he would be bigger than Gandhi and more important than Mandela. Yet it was his fault that he went along with the absurdity of the claims; particularly when he realised he could not remain true to them.

Stand up, hit a golf ball, find it and hit it again. It should have been so straightforward for the man who can accomplish those four little tasks more impressively than anyone since or before. That it hasn't is down to him and the outrageous camp of apologists who answer his every whim and have thus helped assemble a grotesque hypocrisy. Their fault. Nobody else's.

Letter Of The Week

I attended the West Ham-Burnley game and came away delighted and relieved at my side gaining three points after an exhilarating game featuring eight goals and a second-half performance from Burnley that threatened to be one of the most amazing comebacks of all time. Your reporter Andy Fifield's opening line was "five goals, three points, breathless entertainment". Why does he then give it a match rating of 4/10? Bizarre. Mr Fifield also refers to "Guillermo Franco, the Italian striker". Is this the same Franco who has played 19 games for Mexico?

Gary Pope

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