Woods' ex-sponsor says it was in loop

Updated: February 18, 2010, 3:25 PM ET
By Jason Sobel | ESPN.com

MARANA, Ariz. -- One day after the timing of Tiger Woods' Friday morning statement was referred to as "selfish" by fellow pro Ernie Els -- prompting speculation that it was a vindictive move against a former sponsor -- an Accenture spokesperson refuted that notion.

"We got a call from Tiger's agent [Mark Steinberg] prior to the announcement yesterday, so we had a heads-up that they were going to make the announcement and they told us they were timing it for Friday -- for whatever reason, it was important to go out this week," Fred Hawrysh, director of corporate communications for Accenture, said.

"But they were timing it at 11 a.m. ET and we don't tee off here until noon local time. They told us they deliberately timed this so it would not overlap with anything that was happening here.

That story will happen, it will get covered and then we'll move on to the Match Play, but they deliberately tried not to overlap with what we are doing.

-- Fred Hawrysh, director of corporate communications for Accenture

"That story will happen, it will get covered and then we'll move on to the Match Play, but they deliberately tried not to overlap with what we are doing."

After a six-year sponsorship contract with Woods, Accenture became the first company to cut ties with the pitchman in December. Even so, Hawrysh maintained that it may actually be beneficial to have Woods release his statement this week.

"I don't think he's taking away from the tournament; I honestly don't feel that," he said. "We've had great coverage overnight of the first day of it and somehow those two news events seem to be able to coexist and I think that's going to be able to continue to happen.

"If anything, it's going to pique people's interest in golf again. It gets people focused on golf and this is our golf weekend, so there really could be a silver lining in all of this."

No player was more critical of Woods' timing than Els, who told Golfweek magazine: "It's selfish. You can write that. I feel sorry for the sponsor. Mondays are a good day to make statements, not Friday. This takes a lot away from the golf tournament."

All of which still begs the question: Why choose this week to speak publicly?

Woods' agent, Mark Steinberg, said the appearance during the tournament was "a matter of timing." Asked if it could have waited until Monday, he said, "No. . . . There is a very good reason [to do it Friday] . . . and not do it next week."

Those comments led to speculation that Woods would return to next week's Waste Management Phoenix Open, a tournament at which he hasn't competed since 2001. All players must enter a tournament field by 5 p.m. ET Friday prior to that event.

"We have not heard anything from Tiger's camp or the tour," tournament chairman David Rauch told ESPN.com. "Even if he was going to announce that he was coming here, he wouldn't tell us in advance. ... I'll be watching the press conference -- let's put it that way. I don't anticipate that we would know before the words came out of his mouth on national television."

That doesn't mean tournament officials aren't bracing themselves for such a scenario.

"I think it's possible," Rauch said. "It's certainly something we're looking at."

Rauch maintained the security is "essentially in place," but admitted the tournament would "literally have to build another media center" to house the expected attendance, should Woods play the event.

Jason Sobel covers golf for ESPN.com.

Jason Sobel | email

Golf Editor, ESPN.com
Jason Sobel, who joined ESPN in 1997, earned four Sports Emmy awards as a member of ESPN's Studio Production department. He became ESPN.com's golf editor in July 2004.