Woods will speak Friday, and to the surprise of no one, the rules ensure nothing can go wrong. Plus, in true Tiger fashion, he gets vengeance on the first sponsor to drop him.
As always, it's on Tiger Woods' terms.
Woods has yet to lace up his Nikes, so we can't tell about his driving distance off the tee, his precision into the greens, or his ability to make clutch putts. But we already know two of his most defining characteristics are back in fine form: manipulation and vindictiveness.
The champ was always bound to take the stage, address his transgressions, and begin the healing process. So it's telling that he'll move forward in a way so in tune with his past.
As word broke Wednesday that Woods would address the media, the strict guidelines were close behind. He'll read a statement. He won't take questions. Only three hand-selected "pool" reporters will be in the room. The rest of the media contingent will be allowed to watch Woods speak via TV in a room about a mile away. Just like the good ol' days. Tiger's in charge again and he wants us all to know it.
What else would you expect? Think of how many times Tiger's blown off the post-round interviews, or issued his two-word answers just to get it over with. Sure, you might say he's got no obligation to talk, unless you agree with most golf fans who think he's the biggest story whether he's in first, 26th, or 93rd place.
But truth is, it's to be expected Tiger and his camp would be so incredibly defensive, protective, and insular. The way he has been treated in the tabloids has been disgraceful. To splash unsubstantiated rumors about pregnant mistresses goes beyond anything anyone should have to endure. It makes sense to appear for the first time in a controlled environment.
However, this is too much, and it doesn't make sense for Tiger, either. What can he possibly say Friday? That he's sorry? He's done wrong? He's gone to rehab, straightened himself out? Remind us that he's human? OK, that's great. But we know all that. What we don't know is, how will Tiger Woods react in the face of the questions that are bound to come. The questions will come eventually, so why not face them Friday and start fresh the next time you come out? Instead, you drag it out. Remember as a kid? Just yank the Band-aid, don't slowly peel it off.
It's understandable to restrict access to the event. You don't want Star Magazine, the NY Post, or TMZ there, so you don't credential them. But if you're afraid to face legitimate professional golf writers (these are golf writers after all, not exactly the probing scribes of the White House press corps), then you're either a coward or you're still living in the bubble that tells you you're a god and you're not accountable for your own actions. I'd never call Tiger a coward, which can only mean the bubble that got him into this mess still exists.
The terms and conditions surrounding Friday's statement demonstrate Wood's ability and need to control and manipulate the situation. The timing of it shows that he's as vindictive as ever.
"This is all about the next step," Mark Steinberg, Woods' agent, told The Associated Press. "He's looking forward to it."
But what Steinberg doesn't address is just how big a circus the next event will be. He also doesn't offer any clues as to why Friday's statement can't wait until Monday. Or the start of whatever tournament will mark Woods' return. Speculate about what he might announce and it's hard to imagine anything so urgent it has to be revealed Friday. Is he retiring? Taking 2010 off? Returning for the Masters? Hopping a Saturday flight to Kuala Lumpur to prepare for the Malaysian Open and life on the European Tour?
Something here stinks, and I'm certainly not the only one who smells it.
"It's selfish," Ernie Els told Golfweek magazine. "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."
Els, of course is talking about Woods stealing whatever spotlight was on the Accenture Match Play (about a 60 watt bulb, but that's beside the point, since that's life in golf without Woods). Accenture, as you'll remember, was the first major sponsor to dump Woods. And as media members and his fellow golf pros know all too well, if you cross Woods, he'll deliver a message when the time is right.
This week, Tiger's absence in Arizona isn't enough. He's got to remind them that he's Tiger Woods, attention vacuum, and if they don't want to be associated with him (and write him a nice big check for the privilege) then he's got no problem wiping their event right off the map. Remember, he's Tiger Woods.
Els wasn't the only Match Play competitor thinking that way.
"He's got to come out at some point," Rory McIlroy told Golfweek. "I suppose he might want to get something back against the sponsor that dropped him."
PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem didn't want to bite at the "revenge" notion, but then again, he's a bit more media savvy and calculating than the young phenom McIlroy.
"We have tournaments every week," Finchem told AP, suggesting that Tiger had to steal the thunder from someone's tournament, but never mentioning the fact he just so happened to pick his spurned sponsor's. "I think it's going to be a story in and of itself. A lot of people are going to be watching golf this week to see what the world of golf says about it, my guess is. So that will be a good thing."
In other words, the commish is saying, "Tiger Woods is my paycheck and everyone else's on Tour, and if you think I'm stupid enough to say anything to incur his wrath, I never would have gotten a job like this."
But leave it to McIlroy to skip the PR seminar and tell it like it is.
"It just went on for so long," McIlroy continued. "I'm sick of hearing about it. And I'm just looking forward to when he's getting back on the golf course."
And McIlroy is right. It will be good to have Woods back, where we can marvel at his mind-boggling talent on the course, and try to forget how big a jerk he is off of it.