Never mind what kind of
discount rate The Farmers Exchange
likely got; you can almost hear the Tour
breathing a big sigh of relief for the tournament formerly known as the Buick Invitational.Even with the economy as lousy as it
is, for a proud and well-established tournament played on an ocean-side
paradise, it looked extremely bad to go sponsor-less, even for a year.As late as last week, the San Diego
Union was reporting that it was "all but certain"that for this year anyway, the
tournament would simply be called the "San
As welcome has the
last-minute news is for the Tour and
the tournament, let’s face it: what we have here is the equivalent of 2 a.m.
closing time at the singles bar.Everyone suddenly starts to look better, even as the lights go up.
"We couldn’t be more pleased
that Farmers Insurance has stepped
forward..." began a statement from Commissioner
Tim Finchem.No word on whether he had his face buried in his hands when
he said that.
Tom Worsnam, general chairman of the tournament, called Farmers "truly a knight in shining
For now, the tournament will
be called The Farmers Insurance Open
and – hot diggity dog --there’s an option to
extend the sponsorship.
Of course, after next week,
in the morning light, let’s see if the Tour
and the Farmers Exchange ask for
each other’s phone numbers.
Wednesday night, A&E Biography
rebroadcast it’s profile of Tiger Woods,
which, given recent developments, is difficult to watch without laughing.
It spent 58 minutes recalling
and marveling at the Tiger of Old
– the super-human golfer (14 majors,
71 PGA Tour victories), and humanitarian(Tiger Woods
Foundation) and loving son, husband and father.Oh, the days not so long ago, when all was still perfect in Tiger World.
In the Biography profile, Tiger smiles his Chicklet-toothed
smile, and we are treated to a career highlight reel of his 350-yard drives, his
putts that can’t possibly go in the hole until they do, and the reaction of the
awestruck sports fans.Now that
everyone is so disappointed and disgusted with Tiger, it’s enough to make you remember what the fuss is all about.
In the many interview clips
of Tiger, he comes off as likeable,
clean-cut, earnest, determined to become the greatest player in the history of
In interview after
interview, TV commentators (David
Feherty, Lanny Wadkins, Mike Tirico), golf writers (Jaime Diaz, Tim Rosaforte), legends of the game (Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus), other
incomparable athletes (Michael Jordan,
Lance Armstrong, Wayne Gretzky), pals (Mark
O’Meara, John Cook) and his agent (Mark
Steinberg) kneel at the Alter of
Tiger, as we all did.They go
on endlessly and profusely about Tiger’s
incredible ability, his unmatched work ethic, his concentration, his dedication
– all the things that made Tiger
almost too perfect to be true.
Of course, we now know that the
Tiger we thought we knew didn’t
really exist – the image he created was
too perfect to be true. Even he couldn’t live up it.His perfect world was not what it seemed.
It isn’t until the final
couple of minutes of hour-long the Biography profile that they’ve
inserted an updated account of his collapsing world.They show the seamy tabloid covers, the now-familiar aerial
shots of Tiger crash scene outside
his house and a partial parade of his alleged mistresses.
When it was over, all I
could do was sigh and shake my head.What a shame.What a
Even with Tiger Woods’ severely stained image, the
announcement that he will play in the AT&T National over
the July 4th weekend is great news for the tournament, Aronimink GC and sports fans in the area.
Say what you will about him
as a husband, father and man, but Tiger
is still the best golfer in the world and the biggest attraction in the
game.Without him, the AT&T would have been like throwing
a party and having the guest of honor be a no-show.
With Tiger in, the buzz around the tournament will increase, ticket
sales will get a good bump and whatever hospitality packages remain unsold will
become a lot easier to sell.Best
of all, for the first time in his storied 14-year career. Philadelphia sports
fans will finally be able to see him do what he does up close and personal.
If you’re wondering where Tiger will stay during the tournament, don’t
expect him to occupy the Presidential Suite of a luxury hotel.The talk is that he has already rented
the home of an Aronimink member in
the vicinity of the course.That’s fairly common for Camp
An unannounced visit to Aronimink by Tiger in the coming weeks is not out of the question.So far as I can tell, he has never
played the course, and he might like to sneak in a preview round or two.
Staff and members at Aronimink talk of only one previous
visit by Tiger.That was more than a year ago, shortly
before the announcement that the AT&T
was temporarily relocating to Aronimink
for 2010 and 2011.
That, too, was unannounced,
catching even Aronimink staff off
guard.Tiger and a staffer from the Tiger Woods Foundation,
which runs the tournament, showed up at the Newtown Square club, took a tour of
the course in a golf cart, then left as quietly as they arrived.
Just when I thought Tiger Woods and by extension golf had taken the worst hits they
could take, someone pointed out this
story in the Los Angeles Times.
It was written by Dan Neil, the newspaper's Pulitzer Prize-winning automotive columnist
who for some reason was weighing in on advertising, offering his advice to any
sponsor having anything to do with golf.To wit:
It doesn't matter if you're backing Davis Love
III or Ernie Els or Vijay Singh; save your money. Honda, Deutsche Bank,
MasterCard, Shell, make a break for it. For the immediate future, the branding
opportunities of professional golf have been utterly vacated by l'affair d'tigre. Tiger Woods was and
is the sum and whole of the game. He was and is the purest, most unalloyed
product of the sport and culture of golf. And when all that is golf was cooked
in fate's crucible and poured down this young man's gullet, the result was the
perfect player who hasn't breathed an honest breath in years, a jerk -- Joe
Francis with a 400-yard drive. Tiger's failure is golf's summary bankruptcy and
Camelot fell when Lancelot sinned against the
realm. Same deal here.
Get out now, sponsors. The golf brand has been
Now, I am not an expert in advertising, or in branding,
or in corporate imaging.But I have been around the block once
or twice, and I believe that Dan Neil's
analysis of the situation is overwrought
to the point of being apocalyptic.
This whole Tiger
Mess is indeed a mess.But it
doesn't spell the end of the PGA Tour
and it certainly doesn't mean the end of golf as we know it.
For one thing, Dan Neil's assessment of the situation and of the state of the game
make me think he is not a golfer nor is he a long-time golf fan.To me, he comes off like some Johnny Come Lately to golf, one of the
folks who did not know the game existed before Tiger and doesn't see how it can possibly survive once he retires.
You and I know different.
has brought a certain cache to the
game, and he made it hip in some
quarters where it wasn't before, and he has grown the TV ratings.But Tiger is not all there is to golf.
Watching him play is one thing; playing my own game is infinitely more
enjoyable.So, I'm willing to bet
the game will manage to muddle through for another 400 years once Tiger is gone.
For another thing, if there is one thing we Americans like more than seeing the
high and mighty get cut down a notch or three, it's seeing them admit the errors of their ways, grovel for forgiveness, then undertake the slow, uphill slog toward redemption.
Actually, this might be a good place to note that
I am beginning to feel the stirrings of, well, Tiger-Bashing
When the news of his truly reprehensible behavior
first broke, I was as angry and disappointed as anybody.As the mistresses multiplied, I became
more and more incredulous.How could he do this?How could this guy be so duplicitous and untrue to the image of Mr.
Perfect that he worked so hard to create?
But after three-plus
weeks of relentless battering by the tabloid,
gossip and mainstream media, I find myself almost feeling sorry for the
guy.What he did was rotten to the
core, but he didn't kill anybody, he
didn't steal from Little Sisters of the Poor, he didn't
provide safe haven for Osama bin Laden and he didn't sell out his country.
Getting right with his wife is going to take some
work, assuming she is even willing to give him a chance.Good luck with that.
As for getting
right with the rest of us, if and when he decides to come back, demonstrating
a little humility and flawed humanity will go a long
way.If he will just lose the Superman
Complex and remove all pretense that he is invincible, invulnerable
and immune, Tiger can begin to win back his squandered support and good will.
The days of looking up to Tiger are over;now, people
just want to look him in the eye and
trust what they
To listen to Tim Finchem
during his annual end-of-the-season conference call with the media on Thursday,
you'd think this whole Tiger Woods
thing is nothing for golf to worry about.
"I think the doom and gloom
needs to go away and frankly is misleading to our fans," said Finchem.
Surely, the commissioner
must be looking at different polling data than the rest of us.What I keep reading is that, in the
history of polls, no public figure's popularity has fallen faster or further
Not to be a doomy and gloomy, but as Tiger goes, so goes golf – at least PGA Tour golf on TV.
I don't believe for a minute
that what is going on with Tiger
will affect the number of rounds I play this coming year, or how many sleeves
of balls I buy or whether I take a golf vacation.But I do believe that what's going on with Tiger will affect the number of people
who pull up a chair and watch a golf tournament.(Hint: If Tiger's
not in tournament, the number people watching drops precipitously).And I do believe that what is going on
with Tiger affects how sports fans
and corporate America view the game.
If you ask me, Finchem is
whistling past the graveyard.Who
knows what the commish is saying to the boys in the
back room at PGA Tour HQ in Ponte Vedra, or whether
the whole place is in full-blown panic mode.But on the conference call, Finchem came off like cheerleader-in-chief, professing to be unconcerned
that the star quarterback just got
carried off the field on a stretcher.
You can't blame Finchem,
really.He has a league to promote
and a product to sell.We all know
he's putting lipstick on this pig of a situation.
If you listen closely, you
can hear Phil Mickelson's
stock going up.
Will Tiger Woods be back?Yeah.The only thing America likes better than a juicy scandal
is a good story of contrition and redemption followed by a return to glory.
Let's be honest here: Tiger didn't
lose his golf game, he lost his bearings, his moral compass.
Who knows whether his wife
can ever forgive him?And despite
what he says in his latest carefully-crafted statement, only Tiger knows
whether deep down he truly wants to try to salvage the marriage and live out
life so many of us figured he was already living.
Over the past couple of
weeks, there has been no shortage of columns, blogs and bloviating to the
effect that Tiger
owes the public nothing –
nothing other than the very best he can do on the golf course.Beyond, they say, he can demand his
Unless this scandal and
hiatus do irreparable harm to his game, Tiger will go on to rewrite golf's record
books, including eclipsing Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 majors.But superior golf ability alone is not why Tiger is
already one of the most famous athletes on the planet and arguably therichest.
He has amassed his wealth
not with his clubs alone but by creating one of the most respected, enviable
images in the world – the priceless image of an unrivaled, clean-cut winner.Without that wholesome image, Tiger makes
So, if he can live with
that, if he wants to return to golf and play out his career as a sullen guy
wearing the black
interviews, stalking away after every round of golf, then, yeah, he knows the
public nothing.But if Tiger wants
to restore any semblance of his old life, he owes not just his wife but his
fans an apology
and a some kind of an explanation.
Just as his wife must now
decide whether to find it in her heart to give him a second chance, so must his
that have financed his joyride .
This time around, no one is going to be quite as
As we watch the slow-motion
train wreck that Tiger Woods' life has become, I keep coming back to one
question:What is going through
his mind now?
Is Woods, who is always such a picture of
steely calm, control and determination on the golf course, curled up in the
fetal position somewhere, moaning over the mess he has made of his life?
Or does he somehow fancy
himself as something of a victim, as you might infer from some of the comments
in the statement he released last week?
Judging from the stake-out reports
from the tabloids, Tiger is not at his mansion in Isleworth, trying to repair the damage
he has made of his marriage.So,
where is he?Staying with
friends?Holed up in a suite in a
posh hotel?Has he taken refuge on
his yacht, which he aptly named Privacy.
Have his buddies, like Mark O'Meara,
Jordan and Charles
Barkley, rallied around him, offering aid and comfort?
His prepared statement
notwithstanding, is Tiger defiant and in the thick of plotting his own defense and return
to glory.If you want a sense of
what is likely going on behind-the-scenes in Camp Tiger,here is
a story written by an veteran of PR crisis management.
The more this story reveals,
the more it makes us all confront the reality that we never really people the
way we think we do?Having
witnessed the self-control and self-denial required by Tiger to get to where he got in golf,
it is almost inconceivable to see that he had little or no self-control in
other, equally-important, areas of his life.
It's not difficult to
imagine the sense of hurt and betrayal felt by his wife, Elin, but what about his mom, Tida?For such a strong and proud woman, the
profound sense of shock and shame feels must be unfathomable.And were he still alive, how would Tiger's father, Earl, being handling this?He predicted that Tiger's fame and his right to privacy
would eventually come into conflict, but could he have imagined this in his
It is also impossible not to
wonder how Tiger,
who has had 13 years to learn to live with his ever-increasing level of wealth
and celebrity, could possibly have been so naive as to wander so lustfully and
so afar, leaving a telltale trail of text messages and voice mails in his wake.Judging from his reckless behavior
toward the end, it's almost as he wanted to get found out.
Wherever he is, is it
possible that Tiger believes he can return to his old life, that he has the charm, the golf game
and the goodwill of fans to make this all go away?
In other words, can he make
us more or less forget, like Kobe did; or is his image forever in tatters, like O.J.'s?