Tiger Woods still in the rough

The trick to effective presentation is to prepare, prepare, prepare and then look as if you’re speaking off the cuff, effortlessly and authentically. Tiger Woods’ highly anticipated mea culpa looked well prepared, intermittently sincere, but not altogether authentic.

That said, from the view of the American public, and viewing the event from the perspective of a communications professional, Tiger’s presentation was a public relations coup! Congratulations to his handlers! They garnered headlines like the one in today’s Boston Globe, “Woods reveals a new Tiger, penitent and promising to change.”

There were moments when I was persuaded. He very explicitly took responsibility for his transgressions. He acknowledged that fame and wealth had translated into the assumption that for him, “normal rules didn’t apply,” and that he could do whatever he wanted to do. Recommitting to life within normal boundaries, he seemed contrite, at times pained. His anger at the media for stalking his child at school was legitimate. However, as Dan Shaughnessy noted in that Globe piece, where were the concerns for his family when he was out rampantly womanizing?

What also didn’t sit well were Tiger’s repeated references to his having “issues,” as if this notion of a sexual addiction disorder made him a kind of victim! When he apologized to his colleagues, his family, his friends, his staff, and all the students who looked up to him as a role model, where was the apology to the numerous women whom he had bedded? Sure, they were star-struck and went willingly, but the imbalance of power between him and them makes his behavior more than a little predatory.

Tiger had obviously been coached in his pacing, in when to look directly at the camera, and perhaps even in his gesture at the end, when, walking out of the room, back to the camera, he raised his left hand to his face –perhaps to brush away a tear?

Yes, there are some matters that are private, between his wife and him. But any journalist should be irritated that Tiger’s public relations advisors were able to pull this off, getting them to cover the event staged to look like a press conference but with a no direct access to him and no questions. Cynically, this all seems timed to tee him up to rejoin the tour, if not recover some of his endorsements. There may be opportunities, perhaps when he announces his return to golf, perhaps later on a golf course, to pose direct questions. But then again there are many who just want him back to playing money tournaments, no questions asked.

How well he learned the lessons of his self-indulgent and damaging behavior will be a question to test him the rest of his life and will be answered in sport, in family life, and in his head and heart.

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