Commentary

Fans opine on Tiger's damage control

Originally Published: December 2, 2009
By Bob Harig | ESPN.com

THOUSANDS OAKS, Calif. -- Disappointment is the word that comes to mind. Disappointment that one of our true sporting icons would find himself embroiled in such sordid controversy. Disappointment that Tiger Woods put himself in this position.

He plays a game of honor, but has done some dishonorable things that led to an apology on his Web site Wednesday and a certain hit to his previously pristine image.

Woods did not specifically address what he was sorry for, but you don't issue such a lengthy statement to the world for being lax about household chores. He referenced "transgressions" and "tabloids," and there is enough out there to know that his exemplary record between the ropes did not extend to his personal life.

There is a report of an affair that began just two months before his wife, Elin, gave birth to the couple's first child, Sam Alexis, in 2007, with plenty of steamy details.

You can draw your own conclusions, but at the very least, this is a publicity nightmare that will lead to the world's No. 1 golfer's being viewed differently.

"I think his image is going to take a little bit of a shot," said PGA Tour player Steve Stricker, a friend of Woods' who is playing in this week's Chevron World Challenge. "I'd like to see him come on TV and just pour it out a little bit and show what's happened … I don't know if that'll ever happen. But people forget, and if he just does the right things from here on out, people will forgive him and move on and forget, hopefully."

On Wednesday, fans at Sherwood Country Club, site of Tiger's Chevron event, shared their opinions.

"He's had this incredible reputation through the years, and now this," said Jack Rollison, a spectator from Huntington Beach, Calif. "It's not surprising. You thought he was above it all, but this makes you wonder if they're all doing it."

There was plenty of reaction ranging from outrage to indifference at the site of Tiger's tournament, one he has hosted for a decade but withdrew from on Monday citing the injuries suffered in a one-car crash early Friday.

"It doesn't bother me as a sports fan," said Michael Urann of Burbank, Calif. "But I do think it's bad for golf. You think everybody isn't going to be asked about this? It's going to be 'Entertainment Tonight' and 'Access Hollywood' standing on the 18th green."

At least Woods and his advisers acted swiftly this time.

On Friday, when news first broke that Woods had been in a car accident, initial reports indicated he was in a hospital in serious condition.

Truth was, Tiger was already home before the news broke. For a couple of hours, followers were under the mistaken impression that Woods was hospitalized with serious injuries.

It took a long time for word to come that Woods was fine, and it took even longer for Tiger to respond with a statement in which he rebutted speculation that a domestic dispute was part of the accident.

Much of the media circus outside the Isleworth gates could have been avoided had more information been forthcoming.

On Wednesday, Woods' statement appeared shortly after the Us Weekly report detailed a 31-month affair. Woods could have done better to take ownership of his "transgressions" and might not want to call out the "tabloids" when it allegedly was his own actions that led to the reports.

Still, an apology was a good, but necessary, start.

The sporting public has shown time and again that it will forgive a repentant athlete. Owning up to one's own shortcomings is cheered by the masses because it helps humanize that player, makes him one of us. We can't hit a golf ball like Tiger, but we certainly can relate to human flaws, whatever they might be. We are willing to forgive and forget because, well, wouldn't we want the same?

"The guy needs to go out and make a statement on TV and then put a tee in the ground and play great golf," said Fred Latham of San Diego. "He needs to minimize the damage and then go play golf."

Then comes the matter of how this will affect Woods going forward.

From a golf sense, it should mean little. No one can -- or should -- know how this plays out at home. With two children involved, there is likely to be an emotional toll. The last time Woods tried to deal with the emotional fallout from one of life's inevitable events, he missed the cut at the 2006 U.S. Open several weeks after the death of his father, Earl.

Of course, he won the British Open a month later and won the PGA Championship a few weeks after that.

Also, should he talk about this in an interview setting? Not necessarily. The personal nature of all this does not require some sort of public cleansing. Maybe it might make him feel better, could perhaps hasten forgiveness, might even be demanded by some.

But Tiger doesn't disclose his workout routine, never even let anybody know his leg was broken before last year's U.S. Open. And you expect him to talk about this?

The questions won't cease, however, and there is bound to be an uneasy, awkward period whenever it is that Woods returns to the PGA Tour, expected to be at the end of next month in San Diego.

That would be at Torrey Pines, site of his 2008 U.S. Open victory and where he has won six PGA Tour events.

It is a place of great memories and positive vibes. He likely will need to funnel all those good feelings into his golf.

Because right now, few on the outside are feeling too good about Tiger, a guy we have built up to epic proportions thanks to his extraordinary gifts and exemplary record.

It leaves us with another one of our heroes hurting, physically and mentally, the damage self-inflicted.

Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.

Bob Harig | email

Golf Writer, ESPN.com