Not out of the Woods

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 3, 2009; 9:43 AM

All those who said Tiger should keep his head down and his lips zipped and the tabloid circus would quiet down, raise your hands.

You hit it into the rough.

That was never, ever going to work.

If this was just a matter of a spat with his wife and the damage to his Cadillac Escalade, maybe he could have gone the strong-and-silent route.

But come on: from the moment he rammed into that tree, Tiger has acted like he's got something to hide.

There's a reason that generations of PR professionals have advised all manner of miscreants to get the bad news out early and put the embarrassment behind you. If you're a big-deal public figure, it's going to come out anyway, especially in this age of blogs and gossip sites, of voice mail and texting.

So you get what Tiger's got right now: an image as a stonewaller, followed by an apology for unspecified "transgressions." Worst of both worlds. A bigger handicap.

Tiger's led a charmed life until now. Everyone, including me, thought he was not just an exceptional athlete but a good guy. He kept the press at bay, and hardly anything critical was written or said about him. He got to reap the benefits of worldwide publicity, the zillions in endorsements, without revealing much of himself.

Turns out that Rachel Uchitel, the party girl named by the National Enquirer, wasn't Tiger's biggest problem. No, Tiger's weak spot turned out to be L.A. cocktail waitress Jaimee Grubbs (where do they get these names?). She had the incriminating voice mails. Worse, she gave them to Us Weekly (which denied paying $150K for an interview but won't say it paid her nothing). By now, you've probably heard one of them on every TV and radio show this side of Dora the Explorer:

Hey, it's, uh, it's Tiger. I need you to do me a huge favor. Um, can you please, uh, take your name off your phone. My wife went through my phone. And, uh, may be calling you. If you can, please take your name off that and, um, and what do you call it just have it as a number on the voice mail, just have it as your telephone number. That's it, OK. You gotta do this for me. Huge. Quickly.

That led to the Woods statement that "I have not been true to my values and the behavior my family deserves. I am not without faults and I am far short of perfect."

Can an Oprah appearance be far behind?

CONTINUED     1                 >

© 2009 The Washington Post Company