I have been enthralled by the game of golf since I was a kid. There is a 9-hole golf course on the hill north of my hometown of Portage, Maine. It is fairly challenging for a 9-hole muni-course – lots of hills, trees and deep roughs – and it was a great place for young golfers to learn the game. I spend many great hours running up and down those hills chasing a tiny, white ball.
I grew up watching some of the best – Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Arnold Palmer and more – on weekend TV coverage. I recall watching the coverage on a black-and-white television. It was great to step up to a color TV – the grass was greenish, not gray.
It was still a time of cardigan sweaters and polite rounds of golf. The wildest things in golf were the plaid polyester pants.
Professional golfers such as John Daly and others in recent years have added a certain, um, irreverent quality to the quiet, polite game. Wild is in.
And I’m not just talking about the pants, although there is a phrase about keeping things in the pants that seems to be appropriate today.
I watched today’s apology by Tiger Woods and wondered why.
Why did he wait so long to say what he said today? Why did hide out for so long?
Why did he not speak with the Florida authorities after the crash?
Why did the golf writers’ association boycott today’s event when they could have been there and then walked out? That might have been a stronger statement.
Why did he not allow at least a few questions from the press?
Why did he say on one hand that he should not be treated differently than other people, but then demanded that be treated differently than other people of his ilk by refusing the answer questions?
Why did he fail to recognize that he is a public figure that transcends golf?
Why did he succumb to infidelity in the first place? He has so much and, therefore, so much to lose by failing to keep it in his pants.
And why was I watching it?
He is going to be back in the game of golf – the game needs it to be so, he needs it to be so, fans need it to be so, the people he helps through his foundation need it to be so.
The American fascination with Tiger Woods is perfectly understandable. He is handsome, strong, charismatic and simply the greatest ever. You can argue that if Nicklaus and Watson had the same technologically superior golf equipment and advances in nutrition and fitness, they all would be on the same level. Such comparisons are a waste of time. Each of the greats must be considered in the context of his time.
But Tiger Woods is the greatest ever.
And Americans love winners.
We also love it when the greats fall. It gives them an opportunity to be loved as underdogs striving for redemption. And Woods will be striving for redemption, if his words today are to be believed.
And I believe those words.
I believe Woods did terrible things that effected many other people – his wife and children, his mother, his family, his friends, his partners, his clients, his sponsors, and his fellow professional golfers. It takes an arrogant, selfish person to hurt that many people and keep on doing it until they are caught.
I believe he is sorry for what he did. And maybe for being caught. I believe he might have shown even more contrition today, but perhaps some of that contrition can be left for his private ongoing apologies. And for on the golf courses as he interacts with fans and fellow golfers.
I believe he has a problem between the ears that led him to do the hurtful things, but that the ongoing counseling has help so far and likely will help in the future if he continues it. He must continue it; he will never ever be completely “cured.”
I believe he was wrong to lash out at “the media” quite as hard as he did. He is a public figure that transcends golf and Elin Woods is a former model married to a public figure that transcends golf. If they are going to accept the treasures – huge tournament purses and prizes, endorsement deals, fan worship, and more – they also much accept the bad – media scrutiny and questions from the press.
Granted, TMZ-style coverage is not true, legitimate media coverage, and there should be a clearer separation between those “news” agencies that get it right once and a while and those legitimate media outlets that strive for accuracy, fairness and balance at every turn.
I believe David Feherty, a contributing columnist for Golf Magazine and a TV commentator, succumb to the allure of hyperbole when he bemoaned the media coverage of Tiger Woods as being excessive, even comparing it to Bill Clinton and others who have “fallen from grace” (“Tiger’s just another meal for the media monster”). Woods has been under the media microscope because of his infidelity for three months – just 90 days or so – while Clinton was brought up for impeachment and to this day Clinton continues to undergo the slings and arrows of a clique of conservative zealots. There’s a significant difference and Feherty, the funniest thing in golf except for my game, should know it.
Also, Feherty was wrong when he said on national broadcast television after Woods’ statement that the public does not pay Woods.
In fact, the public has paid for everything that Woods has earned and acquired. The purses and prizes for golf tournaments come from sponsors who expect consumers to remember their company name and purchase their products and services. Just because there is a middleman – the sponsor – does not mean that the public/consumers does not pay what Woods earns.
The endorsements Woods has and has lost, but will regain, also are consumer based. Buick endorsed him because Buick expected consumers to purchase Buick vehicles based on the automaker’s association with Tiger Woods. In return, he was compensated.
As a golf course architect, Woods depends on the demand by golfers who want to play on a Tiger Woods-designed golf course. If there is no demand from golfers/consumers, there is no client to partner with Woods to warrant building a course.
If there are no golf fans, no public, to buy the products endorsed by Woods, why pay him? The public does in fact pay Tiger Woods.
There will be so many views of Woods’ mea culpa. There will be those who will say that he did not go far enough, that he went too far. There are those – me included – that believe he should have come forward much sooner. There are those who might even argue that Woods owed no one except his wife, children and family an apology and explanation.
Woods will come back from this, I have no doubt. And people will cheer him onto victory. But forever, they will remember that he did grave wrongs against so many people close to him. He has a lot of making up to do.
Should we care about his apology? Perhaps. Perhaps not.
Perhaps we should care less about the sordid details of his fall and much more about his recovery and redemption. We Americans love that sort of thing.
Today was just one step in that recovery, that redemption, for Woods.
Transcript of Tiger Woods’ apology:
Good morning. And thank you for joining me.
Many of you in the room are my friends. Many of you in this room know me. Many of you have cheered for me, or worked with me, or supported me, and now, every one of you has good reason to be critical of me.
I want to say to each of you, simply, and directly, I am deeply sorry for my irresponsible and selfish behavior I engaged in.
I know people want to find out how I could be so selfish and so foolish. People want to know how I could have done these things to my wife, Elin, and to my children. And while I have always tried to be a private person, there are some things I want to say.
Elin and I have started the process of discussing the damage caused by my behavior. As she pointed out to me, my real apology to her will not come in the form of words. It will come from my behavior over time. We have a lot to discuss. However, what we say to each other will remain between the two of us.
I am also aware of the pain my behavior has caused to those of you in this room. I have let you down. I have let down my fans. For many of you, especially my friends, my behavior has been a personal disappointment. To those of you who work for me, I have let you down, personally and professionally. My behavior has caused considerable worry to my business partners.
To everyone involved in my foundation, including my staff, board of directors, sponsors, and most importantly, the young students we reach, our work is more important than ever. Thirteen years ago, my dad and I envisioned helping young people achieve their dreams through education. This work remains unchanged and will continue to grow. From the Learning Center students in Southern California, to the Earl Woods Scholars in Washington, D.C., millions of kids have changed their lives, and I am dedicated to making sure that continues.
But, still, I know I have severely disappointed all of you. I have made you question who I am and how I have done the things I did. I am embarrassed that I have put you in this position. For all that I have done, I am so sorry. I have a lot to atone for.
But there is one issue I really want to discuss. Some people have speculated that Elin somehow hurt or attacked me on Thanksgiving night. It angers me that people would fabricate a story like that. She never hit me that night or any other night. There has never been an episode of domestic violence in our marriage. Ever.
Elin has shown enormous grace and poise throughout this ordeal. Elin deserves praise, not blame. The issue involved here was my repeated irresponsible behavior. I was unfaithful. I had affairs. I cheated. What I did is not acceptable. And I am the only person to blame. I stopped living by the core values that I was taught to believe in.
I knew my actions were wrong. But I convinced myself that normal rules didn’t apply. I never thought about who I was hurting. Instead, I thought only about myself. I ran straight through the boundaries that a married couple should live by. I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to. I felt that I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me. I felt I was entitled. Thanks to money and fame, I didn’t have far – didn’t have to go far to find them.
I was wrong. I was foolish. I don’t get to play by different rules. The same boundaries that apply to everyone apply to me. I brought this shame on myself. I hurt my wife, my kids, my mother, my wife’s family, my friends, my foundation, and kids all around the world who admired me.
I’ve had a lot of time to think about what I have done. My failures have made me look at myself in a way I never wanted to before. It is now up to me to make amends. And that starts by never repeating the mistakes I have made. It is up to me to start living a life of integrity.
I once heard – and I believe it is true – it’s not what you achieve in life that matters, it is what you overcome. Achievements on the golf course are only part of setting an example. Character and decency are what really count. Parents used to point to me as a role model for their kids. I owe all of those families a special apology. I want to say to them that I am truly sorry.
It is hard to admit that I need help. But I do. For 45 days, from the end of December to early February, I was in inpatient therapy, receiving guidance for the issues I’m facing. I have a long way to go. But I’ve taken my first steps in the right direction.
As I proceed, I understand people have questions. I understand the press wants me to – to ask me for the details of the times I was unfaithful. I understand people want to know whether Elin and I will remain together. Please know that as far as I’m concerned, every one of these questions and answers is a matter between Elin and me. These are issues between a husband and a wife.
Some people have made up things that never happened. They said I used performance-enhancing drugs. This is completely and utterly false.
Some have written things about my family. Despite the damage I have done, I still believe it is right to shield my family from the public spotlight. They did not do these things. I did. I have always tried to maintain a private space for my wife and children. They have been kept separate from my sponsors, my commercial endorsements, when my children were born, we only released photographs so they … so that the paparazzi could not chase them.
However, my behavior doesn’t make it right for the media to follow my 2½-year-old daughter to school and report the school’s location. They staked out my wife and pursued my mom. Whatever my wrongdoings, for the sake of my family, please leave my wife and kids alone.
I recognize I have brought this on myself. And I know above all I am the one who needs to change. I owe it to my family to become a better person. I owe it to those closest to me to become a better man. That is where my focus will be. I have a lot of work to do. And I intend to dedicate myself to doing it.
Part of following this path for me is Buddhism, which my mother taught me at a young age. People probably don’t realize it, but I was raised a Buddhist, and I actively practiced my faith from childhood until I drifted away from it in recent years. Buddhism teaches that a craving for things outside ourselves causes an unhappy and pointless search for security. It teaches me to stop following every impulse and to learn restraint. Obviously, I lost track of what I was taught.
As I move forward, I will continue to receive help because I have learned that is how people really do change. Starting tomorrow, I will leave for more treatment and more therapy.
I would like to thank my friends at Accenture and the players in the field this week for understanding why I am making this – these remarks today. In therapy, I have learned that looking at – the importance of looking at my spiritual life and keeping in balance with my professional life. I need to regain my balance and be centered so I can save the things that are most important to me: my marriage and my children.
That also means relying on others for help. I have learned to seek support from my peers in therapy, and I hope someday to return that support to others who are seeking help.
I do plan to return to golf one day. I just don’t know when that day will be. I don’t rule out that it will be this year. When I do return, I need to make my behavior more respectful of the game.
In recent weeks, I have received many thousands of e-mails, letters and phone calls from people expressing good wishes. To everyone who has reached out to me and my family, thank you. Your encouragement means the world to Elin and me. I want to thank the PGA Tour, Commissioner [Tim] Finchem and the players for their patience and understanding while I work on my private life. I look forward to seeing my fellow players on the course.
Finally, there are many people in this room and there are many people at home who believed in me. Today, I want to ask for your help. I ask you to find room in your hearts to one day believe in me again. Thank you.