Players Irked at Tiger's Timing

To the casual golf fan, the news that Tiger Woods will be finally making a public appearance Friday morning to explain where he's been and what his plans are should be worth watching. Certainly the major media outlets think so, as all the major networks carried a story after they learned of tomorrow morning's session at PGA Tour headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

But to the players, especially those now in Arizona competing in the Accenture Match Play Championship - the first World Golf Championships event of the year, the timing stinks.

Ernie Els, for one, commented, "It's selfish. This takes a lot away from the tournament," Els told Golfweek. "I feel sorry for the sponsor. Mondays are a good day to make statements, not Friday."

Of course the sponsor of the Match Play Championship is Accenture, one of the first sponsors to drop Woods following his car accident on November 27 and the subsequent revelations of his extramarital affairs.

Two other players in Arizona, Paul Casey and Oliver Wilson of England, are also unhappy over the timing of the "interview" (none of the reporters attending the session will be allowed to ask questions). "It just seems very poor from everyone involved to have it organized," said Wilson. "You have a brilliant event here and the sponsors are owed more to that.

"And for the Tour to be setting up on their own headquarters, I don't think it's very good," said Wilson.

Woods' agent, Mark Steinberg, responded to the appearance by saying it was simply "a matter of timing." Asked if it could have waited until Monday, he said, "No. There is a very good reason [to do it Friday] . . . and not do it next week," Steinberg said, according to Golfweek.

Steinberg said there was no intention to upstage Accenture's sponsorship of the Match Play tournament. He said he alerted a company executive of Woods' plans, and made sure his statement would be made "well outside the tournament's TV window."

An Accenture spokesman confirmed to that Steinberg gave the company advance notice. "That story will happen, it will get covered and then we'll move on to the Match Play, but they deliberately tried not to overlap with what we are doing," Accenture's director of corporate communications Fred Hawrysh said.

Indeed, Hawrysh said that Friday's session may actually benefit the tournament. "I don't think he's taking away from the tournament; I honestly don't feel that," he said. "We've had great coverage overnight of the first day of it and somehow those two news events seem to be able to coexist and I think that's going to be able to continue to happen.

"If anything, it's going to pique people's interest in golf again. It gets people focused on golf and this is our golf weekend, so there really could be a silver lining in all of this."

"He's got to come out at some point," Rory McIlroy said of Woods. "I suppose he might want to get something back against the sponsor that dropped him. No, I don't know. It just went on for so long. I'm sick of hearing about it. And I'm just looking forward to when he's getting back on the golf course."

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said he didn't believe Woods' appearance would undermine the Arizona event. "We have tournaments every week," Finchem said. "I think it's going to be a story in and of itself. A lot of people are going to be watching golf this week to see what the world of golf says about it, my guess is. So that will be a good thing."

Woods will make his appearance in the cavernous clubhouse at the TPC Sawgrass. The gathering - scheduled for 11:00 a.m. EST (8:00 a.m. on the West Coast) will include a small number of wire-service and golf reporters and only one television camera for live coverage via satellite. Three networks - ABC, CBS and NBC - will carry the statement live, while the Golf Channel will start coverage 30 minutes before Woods is scheduled to speak.

Steinberg described the gathering as a "small group of friends, colleagues and close associates" who will listen to Woods apologize as he talks about the past and what he plans to do next. "He also let down his fans. He wants to begin the process of making amends and that's what he's going to discuss," Steinberg said in an e-mail.

As is typical of British bookmakers, the betting house of William Hill posted odds of 4-to-7 that Woods' estranged wife, Elin, will be with him, while also offering 8-to-1 odds that Woods will announce he is getting divorced; 12-to-1 that his wife is pregnant; and 100-to-1 he is retiring.