It’s an exciting time of year for sports. It’s officially opening day for Major League Baseball. The Final Four tips in Indianapolis with storybook character, Butler University, taking on hoops behemoth, Duke in the evening. In the midst of it all will be lots of talk about Sunday’s big National Football League trade of Donovan McNabb from the Philadelphia Eagles to the Washington Redskins.
Oh, and Tiger is scheduled to hold a press conference today at 2 p.m., EST at Augusta National, site of The Master’s. It will be the first time that professional golfer Tiger Woods, takes questions from the media after he admitted to multiple affairs, and watched his nearly spotless brand derail last fall.
We, the public, can speculate what Woods might say in an uncontrolled environment. The fact is, however, he chose his return to professional golf at this tournament because it has long been the most conservative and closely guarded event in sports. There’s a chance that golf reporters will ask questions about the still unqualified early morning last November during which Woods damaged his car, but if the script goes according to the last month, Woods will remain tight-lipped about what he and many consider personal issues.
From a public relations and branding standpoint, Woods will have to adjust his strategy if he plans to enjoy an accepting crowd and media contingent. Sure, the salacious, gossip media will not be credentialed for The Master’s, but because Woods didn’t come forth with answers to what happened that night and take control of his own message, there will be a group at Augusta that has made up its own mind. Even if they’re only interested in the way he swings the club after an extended layoff, people will look at Woods and wonder. Always the tunnel-visioned competitor, his emotions may be just as challenged as his ability to compete.
If I was Woods, I would look no further than fellow golf icon Arnold Palmer for advice on how to move forward as he works to repair his brand. (Of course if I were Woods, I would have handled everything differently since Day 1 of the scandal.)
Palmer basically said when asked prior to his Bay Hill Invitational this year, that Woods, who did not play, should let his guard down and open up to media in a first step toward moving forward.
Whether you think that Woods owes the public an explanation of all things personal or not, the fact is that even if he should win The Master’s this year, the questions and controversy won’t go away until he opens up and lets the garbage take hold one last time before it flushes away.
There’s no more PR strategy that I can offer that I haven’t before. Today, however, will probably be the most widely watched pre-Master’s press conference in history. What Tiger says, or doesn’t say, will likely set the tone for public discussion the rest of the week if not the PGA season.