So this is how it's going to go. Tiger Woods, rather than getting a hero's welcome for his return to golf, is being met with scorn, derision and a level of disrespect that would have been unthinkable even three months ago.
The news that Woods would hold his landmark press conference on the Friday of the Accenture infuriated other players, who are increasingly less shy about speaking up. "It’s selfish,” Ernie Els told Golfweek. “You can write that. I feel sorry for the sponsor. Mondays are a good day to make statements, not Friday. This takes a lot away from the golf tournament.” Rory McIlroy noted that Woods could well be trying to stick it to Accenture, which is sponsoring this weekend's tournament.
The fact that players are not just speaking out, but speaking out against Woods, is a phenomenal shift. He's owned both the careers and the heads of most of his fellow Tour pros for more than a decade, but it appears that his mental domination may be at an end.
Another bunch all too often cowed into silence by Woods was the golf media. The entire operation of the Friday morning press conference was long a bone of contention for journalists. The idea that Tiger would simply talk on a closed-circuit camera to journalists sitting in a hotel conference room a mile away disgusted people who believe Woods ought to answer questions, if not about his family -- which is a justifiably off-limits target -- then at least about the way his actions have affected the hundreds of people who have millions of dollars at stake in protecting his image.
Thursday night, after attempts at negotiating the terms of the contract, the Golf Writers' Association of America overwhelmingly voted to boycott the conference to protest Woods' poor treatment of the media. Their statement reads in part:
“I cannot stress how strongly our board felt that this should be open to all media and also for the opportunity to question Woods,” said Vartan Kupelian, president of the 950-member group. “The position, simply put, is all or none. This is a major story of international scope. To limit the ability of journalists to attend, listen, see and question Woods goes against the grain of everything we believe.”
The GWAA also believes strongly that its presence, without the ability to ask question, gives credibility to an event that isn’t worthy of it.
Wow. If that last sentence had been written even three months ago, Woods would have seen to it that whoever wrote it was stuck covering the penguin-mating beat in Antarctica. And while this has the feel of the school nerd standing up after the bully's already been driven to his knees, good for the GWAA in taking this stand. This "press" conference already has the feel of a farce.
Woods has the right to speak on any terms he wishes, of course. But the players and the media are showing that they don't automatically have to accept those terms. Welcome to TigerWorld 2.0.