Rehabilitating his image

By PAT WATSON

To observe the poetry in motion that is a Tiger Woods golf shot is what fans of the game, and even those who have only a casual interest, find ever fascinating. Woods, 34, is the boy wonder whose genius on the fairway, evident from a very young age, raised the profile of what had previously been an obsessive avocation for the elite to a more egalitarian pastime.

Now, it is not just doctors who take their Wednesdays off to play 18 holes. In recent years, clubs have even sprung up that give kids who would not otherwise care or be exposed to golf the opportunity to enjoy the many benefits of participating in the game.

Because he is a superlative golfer, and because he is of Black heritage, Woods has become, for many Blacks, a symbol of the possible.

Among highlights, Woods has won three U.S. Open titles and four Masters and Professional Golf Association (PGA) Championship tournaments. His tenacity on the golf course has been richly rewarded, making him a billionaire from the PGA’s multi-million dollar tournament prizes and from product endorsements that leaned mostly on his prowess on the golf course, but also as a result of his squeaky clean public image.

Little wonder then that during his televised statement last week he made mention of disappointing youngsters who looked up to him, although, how much his tarnished image will affect newly emerging golf enthusiasts is arguable. Those who love golf know that Woods’ high profile in the game is an enhancement but has little to do with their personal affection for golf.

So whether Tiger Woods is a sex addict – and there are many who dispute this – or whether he is just a young man who chose not to resist temptation is not going to take away from the love of the game.

What will be lost, however, in the weeks and months to come, should Woods spend an extended time away from the game, are the millions of dollars in revenue that televised media and the PGA itself can wave goodbye to as viewership falls off from Tiger-less tournaments although some of the top name, top prize tournaments like the Masters in April and the Players Championship in May will still attract seasoned fans.

Which brings us to the beleaguered golf phenom’s scripted, televised apology late last week. Given that this action arose out of the much too public disclosure of Woods’ serial marital infidelities, we strongly suggest that it is to his wife, his family and close loved ones to whom he owes an apology, not to us. His actions have destabilized his home life while also costing him much, both monetarily and in terms of his carefully maintained public image.

As he stated, the repercussions after the revelations of his “foolish and selfish behaviour” have resulted in distress in his family and extended family.

During his presentation before family and supporters – but not his wife Elin Nordegren – Woods neither used the term nor acknowledged that he is a sex addict. The fact is that regardless of speculation, only he and his therapist will know for certain whether that diagnosis is apt. After all, Woods, while he expressed “shame” about this personal crisis, also explained that to his way of thinking he had “worked hard (his) entire life and (felt he) deserved to enjoy all the temptations around.”

By his own admission, he “felt entitled” to engage in extramarital sexual liaisons. Money and fame made it easy for him to reward himself in what could be pretty much some men’s fantasy of a good life. (See Adam Giambrone, Bill Clinton, Mel Lastman, Kobe Bryant…)

So why did a previously private albeit famous sports figure decide to make this public, though guarded, confession and appeal for forgiveness?

With countless millions of dollars in endorsements at stake, clearly Woods’ scripted presentation last week was specifically an attempt to rehabilitate his image so that he can resume his richly rewarding working relationships with the likes of Gillette, AT&T and Tag Heuer.

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