'I can't recall anyone in public life so contrite'

Jonathan Brown
Saturday 20 February 2010 01:00

As mea culpas go, Tiger Woods's had everything. Moist-eyed regret, barely repressed anger and lashings of self-flagellation. Only one thing was missing – Mrs Tiger Woods.

Yet while atonement for his very public mistreatment of Elin Nordegren seemed to permeate the golfer's every word, the Swedish model was notably absent from the heartfelt yet carefully stage-managed event.

For whether it is sport, politics or showbusiness, the presence of the wronged spouse has become a required feature at some point in the celebrity rehabilitation process. Only this week John Terry, the shamed former England football captain, and his wife, Toni, were photographed strolling hand-in-hand through the arrivals lounge at Heathrow fresh from an apparently successful make-it-up holiday in Dubai.

Similar shows of unity were deployed by fellow England teammates Wayne Rooney and David Beckham who clambered back on the media juggernaut with their loyal partners soon after they had faced their own lurid sex allegations.

And Hugh Grant's notorious encounter with the prostitute Divine Brown did little to stall his meteoric rise to international superstardom, nor that of his then-girlfriend Liz Hurley, who braved the media glare to accompany him to a premiere just weeks after his arrest.

The wives of politicians are past masters at playing the stand-by-your-man routine. Who can forget the family photograph David Mellor displayed after revelations of his affair with the actress Antonia de Sanchez? But shows of public support come no bigger than Hillary Clinton's when she backed Bill at the height of his discomfort during the Monica Lewinsky affair.

PR expert Mark Borkowski said it was never likely that Ms Nordegren would have been deployed yesterday, describing the depth and scale of Woods's apology as "astounding".

He praised the golfer for focusing the blame on himself. "He has lanced a very ugly boil and the pus has ended up firmly all over him. I cannot recall anyone in public life being that contrite," he said.

Though he said it was inevitable that the couple would be photographed together – assuming they did not split – he expected Ms Nordegren to remain out of the spotlight for the time being. "She said he has to prove himself and she is not going to be part of the game," he said.

"This is designed for the American audience and it's being lapped up. It was a cross between a presentation for a share offer for a new bio-tech company and a presidential address. If only he had done this two months ago to fill the vacuum," he said.

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