If Tiger Woods really is determined to prove that he is a new man, he must be remarkably persuasive on Friday. In his attempt to restore his name and repair his life, he first must overcome the idea that, in terms of public relations, he is the same old Tiger.
He has set an awfully hard target for himself, given his reputation for keeping questions at arm's length and given the fact the announcement will be on his turf and his terms.
The conditions set out did nothing to make observers believe he had changed his perspective on openness. He will make his first public comments privately, in the clubhouse at PGA Tour headquarters, surrounded by friends. Media people will be in a ballroom about a mile away, as if they were covering a space launch. They will be prohibited from asking questions, as if they were covering the Kremlin.
Woods has been taking a pounding from commentators the past two days. They were mindful of the reputation that once spawned a joke among golf writers when they heard that someone had been granted a rare one-on-one. They envisioned the reporter sitting amid many empty seats in a press room, with Woods looking down from a podium. A moderator would keep making the reporter raise his hand, identify himself and ask his question into a microphone. After a few queries, the moderator would say the time was up.
Golf media people know that Woods had felt burned early in his career by being quoted telling bawdy jokes during a conversation that he had assumed was off the record. They know he has been cautious ever since. They know he refused to talk to TV announcers whom he felt had slighted him.
The other hurdle for him is that he chose this week to come out of exile. The news Wednesday that he would speak Friday upstaged the Accenture Match Play Championship. Rory McIlroy, the prodigy from Northern Ireland, publicly mentioned that Accenture had been the first sponsor to drop Woods when the scandal mushroomed. Can it be that even as Woods is asking forgiveness, he is doling out vengeance?
No one went that far, but Ernie Els told Golfweek magazine, "It's selfish. You can write that. I feel sorry for the sponsor. Mondays are a good day to make statements, not Friday."
So Woods has all sorts of traps to avoid and escape Friday. And it is easy to connect the dots and say he is being as controlling and aloof as he has been during tournaments.
But this isn't just another tournament. He never has been in a situation like this before. There's no roadmap because no golfer ever fell so far so quickly.
How he handles this is anyone's guess. Maybe he will play next week. Maybe he will retire. The blogosphere was crackling with possibilities and suggestions on Thursday. Atlanta public relations and crisis management specialist Mark DeMoss said Woods should willingly skip all the majors this year and submit to mentoring by Jack Nicklaus and Tony Dungy. Paddy Power, an Irish bookmaker, put 7-to-2 odds on "I regret the hurt I've caused" being the speech's first cliche. Bodog.com lists 5.5 as the over/under on how many times he says the word "sorry."
Still, only Woods, who has become an international punchline, knows how big a gamble he is taking Friday.