New Tiger, old Tiger, they both sound the same
He still curses. He still tosses clubs. His interviews, still,
are clipped and smug – the few he gives, that is.
This new version of Tiger Woods was supposed to be warmer,
fuzzier, someone who showed more respect for the game and all those
fans who’ve made him a very rich man. A year later, it appears as
if the only thing about Woods that’s really changed is his ability
No one expected Woods to become Phil Mickelson when he returned
to the game following the swiftest, sharpest downfall of a star
athlete in recent memory. Taming his temper and ego was going to be
as big a project as his swing change, and he’s having about as much
Sure, he’ll occasionally wave as he walks off the tee, make eye
contact with fans here and there. He has stopped during pro-am
rounds to pose for pictures. He’s even embraced Twitter, showing a
charming personality in 140 characters or less. Those things are
relatively easy to do, however. When it comes to basic course
etiquette and being more accessible, he can’t seem to be
He was fined for spitting on the green during the final round of
the Dubai Desert Classic earlier this year. He cursed enough during
the Masters that CBS’ coverage probably should have come with a
”parental discretion is advised” disclaimer. His interview with
Bill Macatee after shooting a 67 on Sunday was needlessly testy,
making his uncomfortable chat with Peter Kostis a year earlier look
like a fireside chat.
Even when he does talk, he sidesteps the most mundane questions
about how his life has changed, and treats reasonable inquiries
about the state of his game with disdain.
”When he was at his height, he was great golfer and had a very
likable persona,” said Michael Gordon, a principal at Group Gordon
Strategic Communications, a corporate and crisis firm in New York.
”Both are missing right now.”
Woods is hardly the first flawed golfing hero. Arnold Palmer was
criticized for smoking. Ben Hogan was considered aloof. John Daly
makes soap operas seem dull. And even Woods’ boorish antics were
overlooked while he piled up wins in record numbers and closed in
on Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors. If his Sunday run at the
Masters was any indication, all will be forgiven if he starts
But with nary a title in almost 17 months, patience with his
tantrums and pouting is wearing thin.
Before the sex scandal, Woods had a Q Score – the measure of
likeability among consumers – of 28, second only to Michael Jordan
among athletes. Now his Q Score is 14, putting him in the same
company as serial problem children Terrell Owens and Randy
”He was never the most personable athlete out there by any
means. He always had that attitude, but it fell by the wayside
because he was a champion. That’s not the case now,” said Henry
Schafer, executive vice president of The Q Scores Company. ”This
is where he’s at, and that’s what people are going to focus on
until he starts winning.”
His spitting incident in Dubai caused so much outrage that Royal
& Ancient chief executive Peter Dawson suggested this week that
the PGA and European tours make their disciplinary actions
”I would not want to give the impression in any way that the
standards of behavior in golf are poor,” Dawson told the Press
Association on Tuesday at Royal St. George’s. ”I think they are
very high, and golf is still held up as a model for many other
sports. These particular incidents that we see do get a great deal
of publicity and rightly so.”
Woods has carefully crafted his image, and he’s not about to
give up that control now. But big-time sports are equal parts
entertainment and athletics, and there’s a price to pay for being
the first $1 billion athlete.
If Woods wants folks to shell out $49.99 for the Tiger Woods PGA
Tour 12 video game or pay $230 for the privilege of wearing his TW
Air Zoom golf shoes, he’s got to give something back.
Otherwise, don’t be surprised if fans start drifting to some of
the game’s other personalities – like the little girl standing
behind the 18th green at Augusta National wearing a Rickie Fowler
hat and Puma shoes.
”If you are a billion-dollar brand, which he is, and at the top
of your game, which he is, there is a limit to the amount of
privacy that a person can reasonably expect,” Gordon said.
This doesn’t mean Woods needs his own reality show. Or that he
should become a Twitter fiend like Ian Poulter. Or that he can’t
throw a fit in frustration on the course.
Just rein it in a bit.
After all these months retooling his game, Woods should put a
little effort into retooling his personality, too.
Nancy Armour is a National Writer for The Associated Press.
Write to her at narmour(at)ap.org