Published 19/02/2010 | 05:00
IT'S all about power and control.
Always has been and probably always will.
In dictating the terms and timing of his return to the public arena at the PGA Tour's headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, Tiger Woods and his management have made it abundantly clear where the power really lies in professional golf.
Yet even before he utters the carefully chosen first words in front of a live TV audience today (4.0 Irish time) on The Golf Channel, Woods has been served due notice that that the world he dominated before his break from the game has changed ... utterly.
To borrow a phrase from team sports, Woods has lost the locker room.
Tiger's colleagues are furious that he is to make his announcement on the third day of the Accenture Match Play, completely undermining this $8.5m showpiece, one of golf's prestigious World Championships.
Ernie Els, three-times Major Champion and a senior figure on Tour, caught the mood of many of his fellow professionals with his blunt two-word dismissal of Tiger's decision to make his first public appearance today.
"It's selfish," said the South African, adding: "You can write that.
"I feel sorry for the sponsor (Accenture). Mondays are good days to make statements, not Fridays. This takes a lot away from the golf tournament."
Few, if any, of Tiger's fellow players would have made such an overtly-critical remark about his behaviour 10 weeks ago.
In the old world, prior to that November 27 car crash and the sex scandals which wrote off his moral authority, Woods enjoyed the unstinting support and public approval of the game's top professionals for the pivotal role he played in making them rich beyond their wildest dreams.
Els was so furious at the PGA Tour's connivance with Tiger's announcement, to the obvious detriment of this week's tournament, he telephoned Commissioner Tim Finchem to make his feelings known in person.
Rory McIlroy, who has idolised Tiger since first seeing him on TV at age six, told it as it is in a press conference immediately after his first round victory over Kevin Na on Wednesday, saying: "I suppose he might want to get something back against the sponsor that dropped him."
Initially, this remark was edited out of the supposedly verbatim transcript of McIlroy's media conference by a European Tour official, acting on his own initiative in the interests of the tournament sponsor, Accenture. However, it was later restored after strong representations were made to PGA Tour media staff.
Geoff Ogilvy, who is defending his Accenture Match Play title at Dove Mountain this week, resorted to sarcasm, something which Woods certainly will not be used to hearing from his peers.
"Maybe we can put the whole tournament on hold for 10 minutes to watch (the broadcast)," said the Australian, who last month was one of the first to urge Tiger, in the interests of his fellow professionals, to publicly address his recent issues before turning up to play in a tournament.
"The only thing I will say about it is that I would like to see him answer some questions," Ogilvy went on, clearly casting aspersions on the effectiveness of today's TV appearance by Tiger during which questions will not be entertained.
In the room with Tiger today will be a group of friends, family and six hand-picked media representatives -- three from the major news agencies, Associated Press, Reuters and Bloomberg and three nominated by the American Golf Writers Association, who will pool information and pass it on to colleagues watching proceedings 'live' in a conference room at the nearby Sawgrass Marriott Hotel.
Remarkably, many of these 'accredited' reporters travelled 2,000-plus miles from this week's Match Play at Tucson, Arizona, to north Florida to sit in front of a TV screen.
That media personnel and organisations have rowed-in with this ludicrous arrangement says much about Tiger's power and influence.
A prominent agent, who was not prepared to be identified, said: "This isn't coming clean. I don't know what it accomplishes. Not answering questions is a big slap in the face to golf. I'd have had him face the music at the earliest possible moment. The earlier you do it, the less speculation there is."
Tiger's manager at IMG, Mark Steinberg, sparked further speculation about Woods' comeback plans when he responded to Els: "It's always good to get your information right before commenting. It's strictly a timing issue. There is a very good reason (for today) and not do it next week."
Though he declined to give the reason, it's suggested by insiders that Tiger is scheduled to go back into rehab at a Mississippi sex clinic next Monday after spending a couple of days at home with his kids. Incidentally, his wife Elin is not expected to be by his side today.
However, Team Tiger had absolutely no qualms about stealing Accenture's thunder on Wednesday, when Tiger went jogging near his home in Orlando, the resulting photograph appearing in every major newspaper on the planet, leaving little room for action shots from the match play championship.
Of course, Accenture were one of the first sponsors to cut and run from Woods when the sex scandal broke. Hell, it seems, hath no fury like a Tiger spurned. Yet Woods has discovered that the patience of his colleagues on Tour doesn't stretch too far either!
Accenture World Match Play,
Live, Sky Sports 2, 7.0