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Tiger Woods’ Interview Decoded

March 22nd, 2010 · 1 Comment

As the two year anniversary of Tiger Woods’ “break their neck” outburst at Doral nears, I am reminded of the one-on-one interview he granted to ESPN’s Dana Jacobsen. Like an NFL team running down the clock, Woods played prevent defense, evaded the tough questions, and ran out the game clock (all 90 seconds of it).

Yesterday’s two five minute interviews on the Golf Channel and ESPN had much the same feeling. Woods knew the interviewers wanted to cram in as many questions as possible, and  they had no time to go deep. As a result, he avoided answering the tough ones, and gave expansive non-answers on others, eating up valuable time. Indeed, the only times when he let his guard down were during his admissions of wrong doing. But, for these, he gets no credit since we heard this before in his apology speech. Besides, any new confessionals were probably designed to score big points for accountability. While that’s all well and good, there is SO much more that we, the public, want to know.

It would have satisfied far more people if Woods had consented to only one 10-15 minute interview in a more relaxed setting – say in big stuffed chairs with a fireplace burning in the background. But in such an environment, he would not have been as protected from a grilling. So, as it was, both interviews had the feel of a hurry-up-and-get-this-over-with post round interview. Tiger stood by in a golf sweater looking like he was ready to bolt for the practice tee while Kelly Tilghman and Tom Rinaldi fired off their questions in rapid fire succession. And, in a flash, they were thanking him for his time.

On a day when Woods could have taken a huge step forward, he lost valuable ground as he retreated into the shell of the Old Tiger, his confessions notwithstanding. For some examples of Tiger Tactics, I give you my analysis of the Golf Channel’s interview with Kelly Tilghman.

On losing control of his life.
Woods: Going against your  core values, losing sight of it. I quit meditating, I quit being a Buddhist, and my life changed upside down. I felt entitled, which I had never felt before.
Capelle: There are many who claim he’s felt entitled since the day he turned pro, if not before when his stature as a prodigy gave him privileges that other’s failed to receive. He’s not entirely lost his ability to control things – like this and the ESPN interviews. Both were limited to five minutes, which eliminated any followup questions and any deep probing of sensitive issues.

On why he continued to cheat on his wife.
Woods: Yeah, I tried to stop and I couldn’t stop. It was just, it was horrific.
Capelle: Yeah, it must have been sheer torture for the last 8 years since he met his wife, having awesome sex with a bevy of hotties in a drug induced haze. Simply horrific.
Tilghman: Why couldn’t you say no?
Woods: I don’t know, now I know. It’s part of what I learned in treatment, being there for 45 days you learn a lot. You strip away the denial, the rationalization and you come to the truth and the truth is very painful at times and to stare at yourself and look at the person you’ve become…you become disgusted.
Capelle:  Classic Tiger – a long and rambling non-answer.  He knows why he couldn’t stop, as he says, but he doesn’t say why. Was it because these “horrific” experiences with his mistresses were so much fun? Can’t he just come out and say he was a sex addict, or whatever he was being treated for?
Note: Rinaldi asked him about his treatment in the ESPN interview and he was equally evasive.

About his preparedness to play in the Masters.
Woods: I want to play in these events (Tavistock and by Hill) but I just wasn’t ready. I started too late with my preparation.
Capelle: Nicklaus said the obvious just recently – that a big part of preparing for the majors is playing competitively in the weeks leading up to them. And this is no secret to Woods. His saying he is not ready is cover for his real reasons: (1) he doesn’t want to show up where the fans might not treat him kindly, and (2) he doesn’t want to take more questions. He’s not ready for the Tavistock Cup? That’s a throw away, that’s like practicing with friends. Is he saying he can’t play in the Cup (or Bay Hill for that matter) unless he’s ready to win them? And, how can he be ready to win at the Masters if he doesn’t play competitively before it?

On being ready for the Masters.
Woods: I know how to play the golf course and that helps a lot.
Capelle: What about Bay Hill? If knowing Augusta is a good reason for returning at the Masters, then why not for playing at Bay Hill where he knows the course well enough to have won the Arnold Palmer Invitational six times?

On his schedule for 2010.
Woods: As far as my schedule going forward, I don’t know what I’m going to do, Kelly.
Capelle: Give Woods a reason to be secretive and he’ll make you feel like you are after state secrets, trying to get to the bottom of his schedule.  If he had a clue about the needs of others, he would not again put the golf world through this big guessing game about when and where he’s going to play. Couldn’t he at least have said he’s going to play in the majors, THE PLAYERS, and the Ryder Cup? Throw us a bone. We know now that he’s almost assuredly going to play in these, but until he actually says so, there will be an element of doubt. And that affects the plans of fans who might need a special effort to watch him play – schedule time off from work, travel and motels, baby sitters, etc.

Woods’ best answer in the interview.
Tilghman: You went from becoming recognized as the greatest golfer in the world to becoming a punch line. How did that make you feel?
Woods: It was hurtful, but then again you know what, I did it. I’m the one who did those things and looking back on it now with a more clear head, I get it.
Capelle: He scored numerous accountability points here. More clear? This is the English of a Stanford man?

Tilghman: America was concerned when the world’s greatest golfer was lying on the ground with no shoes at 2:30 in the morning, bleeding, what happened that night?
Woods: It’s all in the police report, they investigated it and they have it on public record; there’s a lot of stuff between Elin and I that will remain private and that’s about it.
Capelle: Classic Woods stonewalling. If it was all in the police report, Kelly and the whole world would not continue to search for the details about what happened that night!

Tilghman’s follow up: How did you crash the car?
Woods: I wasn’t going very fast, but unfortunately, I hit a few things.
Capelle: Another short, brusque, non-answer to a legitimate question. Imagine an instructional book by Woods: How do you hit bunker shots so close to the pin? Woods: I hit the ball.

On the involvement of his inner circle in his sexcapades.
Woods: I’m the one who did it, I’m the one who acted the way I acted, no one knew what was going on.
Capelle: Totally unbelievable. There is evidence that his friend and employee Byron Bell bought mistress Rachel Uchitel’s airline ticket to Australia last fall. It is also doubtful that Woods, by himself, set up the article in Men’s Fitness in 2007, an article that was done in exchange for silence about one of Woods’ affairs.

On his father’s disappointment and guidance.
Woods: He’d be very disappointed in me. I miss his guidance, wish I could have had his guidance through all this to have him help straighten me up.
Capelle: I’m a little fuzzy on this one. When would the guidance have started? After 11/27? While his father would have probably been helpful, he’s had the services of the best money can buy. If he means before 11/27, that is doubtful. His affairs were going on from the moment he met Elin, over three years before his dad passed away.

On being a role model
Woods:  I’m trying to become a better person each and every day. The proof in the pudding is over time and that’s what I’m trying to do. I will continue to do that.
Capelle: Let’s hope that he can, finally, after 13 years of poor behavior on tour, learn to accept the responsibility that goes with being the best in the world.

On his legacy.
Woods: Just like I wanted before. I felt that golf was a vehicle for me to help a lot of people.
Capelle: The W – that’s what he’s all about. Winning majors. Helping people is for PR and is nowhere near the top of his priorities.

Tags: Golf in General · The Game

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 BD // Mar 23, 2010 at 10:43 am

    I tend to agree that the Tilghman interview — the only one I saw — had the feel of Tiger going through the motions and not really adding anything new. On the other hand, I just don’t really understand this seemingly obsessive monitoring of Tiger’s progress toward public rehabilitation. Tiger did what he did, and we all lost respect for him as a result. What more is there to say? I don’t feel like he owes ME any apologies any more than I would owe Tiger an apology if I kicked my own dog.

    It seems to me there are only three reasons to WANT Tiger to sit and answer more in-depth questions: (1) you sincerely want or need the information contained in his answer, (2) you would find it entertaining to watch him squirm over difficult/intrusive questions, and/or (3), you wouldn’t necessarily be entertained watching him squirm, but you feel some responsibility for seeing to it that Tiger is punished for his misconduct and making him squirm is one of the few forms of punishment he stands to face. Frankly, I don’t find any of those three things particularly compelling.

    There’s obviously nothing Tiger can do or say, at least in the short term, that’s going to undo the damage that has been done to his image. In fact, he has actually said as much. If you listen to what he’s saying, he is making no attempt whatsoever to defend or explain away his conduct. Since he didn’t commit any crimes, I don’t understand why he’s even required, in the minds of some, to “come clean” and spill all the details of his sordid affairs. Again, to use myself as an example, I’ve done things in my life that may have been mean or hurtful to other people. Does that create an affirmative obligation on my part to make a complete, uncensored confession of those things to any stranger who demands to know the details?

    There really is no huge mystery here. Tiger had the means and opportunity to go on a years-long sexual escapade with a series of loose women who enjoyed the attention from one of the world’s great celebrities. You’re right: he did it because it was fun and exciting, and he probably figured that Elin and the public would never find out, so what the hell. He didn’t set out to hurt anybody.

    At this point, now that he’s been caught, he’s probably regretting the whole thing, but most especially, the part where he got caught. Had he never been caught, I doubt he would have ever lost much sleep over what he did. And having been caught, he probably figures that he’s already paid a pretty handsome price for all the stuff he did (“Please God, can’t we just call it even now and move on?”)

    I think the reason these interviews are so unsatisfying isn’t because the interviewers aren’t asking the right question or Tiger isn’t giving the right answers, but rather because there’s nothing further to be gained from the exercise. We’re waiting for the arbitrary moment when the public decides that this story has run its course and Tiger can just go back to being a professional golfer.

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