Imagine Golf Blogs

Tiger's Crash : A PR disaster

The stonewalling of the media has turned relief about his well being to frustration and annoyance writes Imagine Golf Club's Dermot Gilleece

Posted Dec 01, 2009 by Dermot Gilleece

tiger 4

When the Tiger Woods story broke on Friday, November 27th, I happened to be in New York.  And having observed first hand how the event developed in the American media, I was left with the overriding view that it could best be described as an unmitigated PR disaster.

This, despite the fact that Woods's management team had a full 12 hours from the time of the incident in which to come up with a plausible explanation for the facial injuries which caused him to be taken to hospital for treatment.  It truth, it was a pretty ham-fisted attempt at protecting the privacy of their client.

The question is posed, of course, as to whether the media had any right to know what went on in the gated resort of Isleworth in the early hours of that fateful Friday. By way of answer, I will point to the fact that on both sides of the Atlantic, there is a provision in tour regulations that every member must undertake to co-operate with the media.

Why is this so?  The regulation is there because the tours recognise the importance of the media to sponsors who are critical to the actual functioning of tournament golf.  It is the reason I can personally point to countless occasions through the years when management companies have offered me exclusive interviews with certain players.  And it is the reason why Woods can count on earnings of around $100 million per year.

The world number one hugely values his privacy.  In fact he even named his luxury yacht "Privacy".  Yet despite the fact that his golfing future was threatened by the Isleworth incident, we can take it there would have been no disclosure to the media unless it were absolutely unavoidable.  So what did we get?

We were asked to believe that having inexplicably crashed his Cadillac Esplanade SUV into a fire hydrant and a tree close by his home at 2.25am local time, he was rescued in a semi-comatose state by Elin, his Swedish wife of five years.  To effect the rescue, she had to smash the rear window of the SUV with a golf club and then drag her husband clear.  On the assumption that all five doors of the vehicle were locked, it never occurred to her to break one of the side windows so as to achieve easier access to Woods.  Nor, having broken through the rear window, did she think to open the back door and then a side door.

Having met and spoken with the lady, I can testify that she is no amazon.  Yet she managed to haul her husband, all 13st 3lbs of him, over car seats to safety.  Truly a remarkable feat.  A naive schoolchild attempting to conjure up a credible explanation for the absence of homework, would have done a better job than the Woods management team.  As a consequence, all sorts of speculation has filled newspapers and TV bulletins on both sides of the Atlantic as to the truth behind the incident.

If it was prompted by a private, domestic matter, then that is entitled to remain private, in my view.  But the actual facts of the crash will have to be made known to the local police who, presumably, will then make them known to the media.  Then, the matter should be closed.

In the meantime, however, Woods himself has simply added fuel to the flames by the lack of information in brief, official announcements, especially about his absence from this week's Chevron World Challenge.  It's as if he doesn't care that his many admirers are deeply concerned about his well-being.

After being present at the 2000 US Open at Pebble Beach, where he slaughtered the absolute cream of his world rivals to win by 15 strokes, I could hardly credit the quality of the golf I had witnessed.  And arising from my enduring admiration for the player, I was deeply shocked by the breaking news last Friday about his car accident.

Since then, however, relief about his well-being has turned to frustration and annoyance at the stonewalling both from him and his advisors.  Which is a great pity.

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