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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, March 21, 2010

Tiger Woods shouldn’t be allowed to chart his own course

By Stephen A. Smith
The Philadelphia Inquirer

PHILADELPHIA — About the only thing more sickening than Tiger Woods’ cowardly approach to facing the media the last four months is the public’s willingness to accept his setting the ground rules.

You’ve heard the news, haven’t you? The world’s greatest golfer is returning to the sport he left abruptly after Thanksgiving, and with it, he’s returning to the sport’s biggest stage.
The Masters will take place from April 8-11. The tournament will be flooded with cameras, but there will be plenty of Augusta personnel keeping the prized possession (Woods) from heckling or, dare we say, answering questions that have nothing to do with a 9-iron.
This cannot be allowed to happen. The media and the public cannot allow the Masters to become a tee-time version of Woods’ abominable 13-minute farce of a news conference last month.
The speech, awful on its face, was fake and disingenuous, an insult to anyone with common sense. Perhaps the only thing that would be worse is if Woods is allowed to go through the Masters weekend with similar treatment.
If Woods is never required to answer questions, how precedent-setting is that? What’s to stop the next high-profile athlete from doing the same? And where will that leave the fathers, mothers, and guardians when they are left seeking that all-important accountability as it pertains to the modern-day athlete?
The love for Tiger’s greatness on the golf course has clouded the judgment of so many, Woods actually believes he can get away with statements like this: “The Masters is where I won my first major and I view this tournament with great respect. After a long and necessary time away from the game, I feel like I’m ready to start my season at Augusta.”
Never mind that since World War II, only Ben Hogan (1951 and 1953) has won the Masters when it was his first official event of the year. Pay more attention to former presidential press secretary Ari Fleischer and his newfound influence on Woods. Fleischer’s a media consultant now, the same guy who reportedly crafted Mark McGwire’s return to baseball after a self-imposed exile.
This is not about Tiger Woods winning the Masters. This is about his showing up to begin the process of resurrecting his image.
But how can Woods be allowed to do that when he refuses to legitimately address his off-course issues?
Everyone should recognize that Woods’ adulterous affairs and his relationship with his wife are absolutely none of our business, but there are still some legitimate questions to ask.
Hey, Tiger:
Why did you crash into a fire hydrant and a tree just a few yards away from your house Nov. 27?
Why did you refuse to be questioned by the authorities?
Is there any explanation as to why your own wife would not be allowed to ride in the ambulance with you, as reported?
There are more questions, of course, none of which have anything to do with Woods’ relationship with his wife, alleged mistresses or a few prostitutes. But they are legitimate questions, nonetheless, the kind any past or present athlete — Alex Rodriguez, Michael Irvin, Deion Sanders, Jim Brown, McGwire, Darryl Strawberry, etc. — would have had to answer.
We know why Tiger Woods is different. A billion dollars buys loads of insulation.
If Tiger Woods is allowed to compete at Augusta without facing the music, he will devise a model for other athletes to follow. Public-relations representatives will be supplanted by event organizers. Questions will no longer be answered in sly fashion; they just won’t be answered at all.
Meanwhile, the athletes will be empowered more and the public won’t matter at all.
None of us ever thinks this kind of thing will happen until it does. It’s always too late then.
Doubt it? Just check out the silent Tiger. He’ll be smiling, for sure.