Tiger’s Back, But For How Long?

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - April 07, 2010
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Tiger returns this week at The Masters

If there was one question that stood out during Kelly Tilghman’s five-minute interview with Tiger Woods two weeks ago, it was her inquiry about Woods going from respected athlete to a punchline. The question retains its relevance in the wake of the latest round of titillating expose. Salacious details about the world’s best golfer are nothing new, but the most recent reports possess something earlier accounts didn’t - a certain level of credibility.

In the May issue of Vanity Fair, “The Temptations of Tiger Woods” paints yet another unflattering picture of the golfer that could further diminish his 2010 playing schedule. The details - that Woods flew to his trysts by way of discount airlines and coach seating, that he didn’t let a little thing like menstruation get in the way of having a good time, and that Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley were his two mentors in madness, who helped fuel the expectations implanted by a playboy father.


Tiger’s return date to competitive golf was based on opportunity and damage control. Returning for The Masters offered the greatest amount of protection and enough down time for most of the details to wash out of regular news cycles.

Now, all that is over. Unlike the bevy of tabloids that have found gold mining the sordid details, Vanity Fair ranks slightly higher than most checkout stand staples. The magazine, since its re-creation in 1983, has done some fine reporting on everything from fashion to politics to popular culture, while, at least by American standards, pushing the envelope of taste and decency in its photography. The magazine isn’t changing its style for this story as alleged mistress and former Playboy model Loredana Jolie Ferriolo is photographed nude lying on a bed and surrounded by copies of the New York Post, while Perkin’s waitress Mindy Lawton was given a makeover and open blouse for her shoot.

Had the story remained mainly sequestered in publications solely dedicated to celebrity gossip, the topics at hand would be much easier to dismiss. When the information is backed up by traditionally strong reporting, the details tend to linger.

Woods has never been a person who welcomes criticism or cracks in the protective layer that is his support shield. This article brings the walls of defense crashing down and could once again force Woods into hiding.

The article drags two of his best friends through the mud and offers brutal commentary by a former insider who is none too happy about the direction his former client has taken.

John Merchant, a onetime adviser to Woods ,who says he was canned after criticizing Earl Woods for walking away with $1 million of his son’s original $40 million Nike deal instead of using the money to develop minority golf programs, blasts Jordan particularly in language unsuitable for this publication. The article also says Woods lied in his two March 21 interviews that his infidelities were secret affairs - pun intended - known only to himself and the women blessed with his company.

For the athlete who is seemingly phobic in his need for secrecy, such revelations cannot be easily digested -especially when it involves loyal minions who are nearly as private as he is.

Barkley is the exception. The former not-so-round-mound-of-rebound has been making an ass of himself in public for years, and since his current employer cares little about his off-air exploits, he’s not likely to fade from public view. Woods is another matter.

Woods is a grown man who is big enough to find his own trouble, but he needs plenty of help keeping the world out of his world. With the secret circle supposedly broken and a trusted member discredited, Woods may do what he does even better than score in coffee shops: hide. Especially if his reported $10 million in hush money to mistress No. 1 Rachel Uchitel proves true.


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