The Swiss watchmaker Tag Heuer says it will not use Tiger Woods' image in advertising campaigns in the United States for the foreseeable future. Tag Heuer's chief executive, Jean-Christophe Babin, said yesterday that the company was reacting to "recent events" surrounding the golfer.
"We recognise Tiger Woods as a great sportsman but we have to take account of the sensitivity of some consumers in relation to recent events," Babin said. The move comes after a number of other sponsors distanced themselves from Woods: consulting firm Accenture dropped him as its representative last weekend, and Gillette said it would stop airing his ads for the company's razors.
Padraig Harrington, meanwhile, spoke for the first time last night about Woods' secret life, saying he was "amazed" about the stream of kiss-and-tell tales. Harrington claimed all of Woods' friends and rivals on the golf circuit were taken by surprise.
"I'm amazed by the fact that I'm out on tour and knew nothing – I'm beginning to think I must have my head in a hole, or something like that," Harrington said. "Seemingly, nobody knew anything and that just amazes me."
The three-times major-winning Dubliner is also staggered by what he described as Woods' "triple life – golf, home and when he was away.
"If somebody goes down that road, you usually can tell because of who they are talking to or hanging out with," Harrington said. "There's a bravado in it. That's what fellows are like. They have a few drinks and are telling everybody about it. Yet there was no indication whatsoever of Tiger doing that. I just think to myself, Wow, I'm out there on tour with this guy for 10 years and, often, Tiger himself described me as a friend, and I'd no idea this was going on in his life.
"I thought the guy had a particularly, I'm loath to use the word, but let's say quiet life," Harrington added. "He seemed just to go back to his hotel room every night ... and sitting in your room for six hours is not a pleasant experience, I can tell you.
"Most of us would go out to dinner at tournaments but Tiger couldn't go out. Living in a goldfish bowl, there was so little he could do and I kind of felt sorry for him in that sense."
Harrington often thought of asking Woods if he'd like to join him for dinner, adding: "But then you'd think maybe he's trying to do his own thing and be professional. I just assumed life on tour for him was real tough and that's why you knew that when he was off tour, he enjoyed his boat, going fishing and things like that. That was the only freedom he ever got."
Woods announced last week he was taking an indefinite break from his sport in the increasingly forlorn-looking hope of rescuing his marriage to Swedish wife Elin, mother of his daughter Sam Alexis and baby son Charlie Axel. Though he felt unqualified to suggest when Woods might return, Harrington insisted that Woods would still go on and beat the record 18 major Championships won by Jack Nicklaus.
"It is more for the counsellors, psychiatrists, psychologists or whatever to establish why it's happened," Harrington said. "Was it a cry for help? Was it to do with the fact that he's in the fish bowl and wanted [to feel] the risk of the chase? I have no idea."
Woods has not been seen in public since ploughing his car into a tree outside his home on the exclusive Isleworth Golf Resort, a gated community in Orlando.
Inevitably, Woods will endure media interrogation when he eventually returns on tour but Harrington said: "No matter what happens in his life, the only peace and freedom he'll get will be on the golf course.
"Whenever a golfer goes through issues in his private life, on the golf course is a nice place to be because we are pretty good at hitting that little white golf ball and we feel at home there. Dealing with our emotions and trying to explain things is far more difficult. Tiger's going to have to talk about this but, whatever he's going through, he's no expert or marriage counsellor himself. He hasn't experienced this or seen this before, so he's not going to be comfortable in that situation."