PR offensive just part of Tiger's cold, calculating Masters plan
Published 23/03/2010 | 05:00
BIT by bit, Tiger Woods is coming back to himself. The drip feed of media exposure reveals the incremental gains he has 'made' since he first appeared through the blue curtain a month ago to express remorse over his sexual romp across the pornscape.
You may remember that he was not thinking about a comeback to golf in that period of his rehabilitation. He was too overwrought by his psychological car crash to think about teeing it up with the guys.
Well, a month down the line he is 'healing' better than expected, though a little nervous about the reception he will receive at the US Masters.
Woods is good, but not that good, surely? Can he drag himself from the rubble of personal trauma and self-flagellation, to leap from the couch to the tee box in a matter of weeks?
Woods gave the impression that he was emotionally buckled by despair. There are plenty of like sufferers presenting to their counsellors the same anguished symptoms to suggest that a recovery of that nature is improbable, if not impossible.
His February address at golf HQ in Florida is therefore looking increasingly preposterous. With every choreographed step Woods takes he reveals further evidence of strategic planning intended to reintroduce himself to the public domain ahead of a return to golf at Augusta.
If it were not that, then he is asking us to invest in the notion that there was a post-confessional moment when the new Tiger began to form out of the old, when the darkness lifted to reveal the path of truth that he must take.
And all in time to get him to the first tee in readiness to compete at the most prestigious tournament on earth. Hmm.
Cynicism does not come hard in a discussion of this issue. What was the purpose of that surreal pulpit episode if it not to get that necessary first appearance out of the way to allow plausible time for a 'recovery'? Though we hadn't heard from him in person, we knew that he was in therapy. We knew that he was sorry. So his confession did not move the story along.
Surely the time to step forth would have coincided with an announcement of a development, either a comeback, or retirement. To empty the contents of his soul in a surreal 13 minutes then disappear behind that blue velvet wall via the arms of his mother seemed perfunctory, gratuitous, an indulgence even.
This latest presentation, two television interviews, was dressed up as an open forum with no restrictions on the type of questions permitted. This ignores the forces of blind coercion contained in a setting as heavily prescribed as a Pravdaesque TV studio in Brezhnev's Soviet Union.
The interviews took place on Tiger's terms in the Woods-centric world of Isleworth Golf Club. They were given to The Golf Channel and ESPN, hardly a Paxmanesque interrogation.
None of this happened by accident and the questions, though notionally free-roaming, were restricted to five-minute slots, barely enough time to discuss the weather.
What this achieved was to provide Woods with a PR readout that clears a bit more rubble from his path.
By the time he enters the Augusta interview suite, the venerable master of ceremonies can thus, with all apparent legitimacy, instruct the assembled attack dogs to restrict their questions to golfing matters on the grounds that Woods has already dealt with all the personal stuff beforehand.
Woods paid former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer big bucks to decontaminate the route to Augusta. Their subsequent separation, news of which began to emerge yesterday, acknowledges the stage-managed aspect of his comeback.
Woods was back in pullover and cap as if he had just stepped off the 18th green. All of this is designed to let the idea of normality settle on the scene so that when he enters the sterile environs of the Masters the only item on the agenda will be the plane of his back swing.
Any sympathy that might have accrued to Woods for his attempts to address his personal problems is undermined by his rather too obvious attempts to massage the process to suit another purpose.
This is as much about contesting the Masters as tackling addiction.
The appointment of a PR adviser schooled in the White House and the television revelations are not spontaneous developments but evidence that Woods is executing a plan, which renders inauthentic those heartfelt appeals for sympathy. The veil of vulnerability lifts.
Woods is as much in control of this show as he ever was. (© Daily Telegraph, London)