By Barry Janoff
February 17, 2010: Tiger Woods, the embattled pro golfer who has not been seen in public since his car accident on Thanksgiving Day opened a Pandora's box of infidelity and sexual liaisons, will speak to the media for the first time on Friday, Feb. 19 at an invitation-only event. The meeting — which Woods' representatives emphatically expressed would not be a press conference — will take place at the TPC Sawgrass clubhouse in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., which also is home to PGA Tour headquarters. PGATour.com will stream the statement live.
The event adds fuel to the fire that Woods' could return to active play a few weeks before The Masters April 8-12. The companies contacted by NYSportsJournalism with which Woods still has endorsement deals indicated they continue to support him; none indicated they would have representatives at the meeting. One company, requesting anonymity, said, "This is not about marketing. This is about Tiger getting his life in order. Marketing will come [later]." The event will take place while the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship is being held this week in Arizona. Accenture and AT&T both severed ties with Woods when his indiscretions became public knowledge.
"Our position [regarding Tiger Woods] remains the same," Beth Gast, global public relations manager for Nike, wrote in an e-mail to NYSportsJournalism. "Nike fully supports Tiger and his family through this difficult time. We respect his privacy. We look forward to him returning to golf."
Woods' agent, Mark Steinberg of IMG, and Woods' spokesman, Glenn Greenspan, informed such media outlets as AP, Bloomberg, ESPN and Golf Channel of the press meeting before releasing an official statement that appeared at PGATour.com and on Woods' official Web site.
"Tiger Woods will be speaking to a small group of friends, colleagues and close associates at 11 a.m. (EST) Friday [when he] plans to discuss his past and his future and he intends to apologize for his behavior," Steinberg wrote in his statement. Steinberg stressed that Woods would not take any questions. "This is not a press conference. This will not be an open media event."
The small group of media invited include AP, Reuters and Bloomberg. The Golf Writers Assn. of America also will recommend a pool reporter. A network pool camera will provide coverage. A room is being made available at the nearby Sawgrass Marriott conference center for credentialed reporters to watch his talk on the televised feed. PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, who helped to set up the event, will also be in attendance.
Steinberg said in his statement that Woods' "plans to discuss his past and his future and he intends to apologize for his behavior.”
Woods was earning about $90 million annually in endorsements before the accident and his fall from grace. Accenture and AT&T both said they would cut ties with him. Gatorade, which had already discontinued its Tiger Focus line, Tag Heuer and Gillette said they would remain marketing partners with Woods but would not plan any new activations. EA Sports was the only company among his marketing partners to move ahead with a new product, Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online. Other marketing partners include NetJets and TLC Vision.
Analysts don't expect him to sign new deals for some time after his return to the PGA Tour. At this point, with the damage to his career seemingly having plateaued, it is unlikely he would lose any more of his current partners.
"While Tiger feels that what happened is fundamentally a matter between he and his wife, he also recognizes that he has hurt and let down a lot of other people who were close to him," Steinberg said in his statement." He also let down his fans. He wants to begin the process of making amends and that's what he's going to discuss. This is all about the next step. He's looking forward to it."