MARANA, Ariz. – Tiger Woods will end nearly three months of silence Friday when he speaks publicly for the first time since his middle-of-the-night car accident sparked stunning revelations of infidelity.
However, his agent said Woods will not take any questions from a small group of media.
“This is not a press conference,” Mark Steinberg said Wednesday.
It will be Woods’ first public appearance since Nov. 27, when he crashed his SUV into a tree outside his Florida home. Woods’ only comments since then have been made through his Web site.
“It will be good to see Tiger’s face again, and see that he’s actually out there somewhere,” Stewart Cink said. “I think this is the beginning of the comeback process for him.”
Woods is to speak at 11 a.m. Friday from the clubhouse at the TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., home of the PGA Tour.
“This is all about the next step,” Steinberg said. “He’s looking forward to it.”
Still, there was strict control over the appearance, typical of Woods’ career.
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 said three wire services have been invited – The Associated Press, Reuters and Bloomberg – and he asked the Golf Writers Association of America to recommend pool reporters.
Only one camera will be in the room to provide live coverage via satellite. Steinberg said other writers with proper credentials could watch from a hotel ballroom more than a mile away.
“The first time out, he’s better controlling it,” Padraig Harrington said. “Over time, there will be questions. At the moment, the best thing is a more controlled environment and gradually ease his way back into it.”
Steinberg said in an e-mail announcing the public appearance, “While Tiger feels that what happened is fundamentally a matter between he and his wife, he also recognizes that he has hurt and let down a lot of other people who were close to him. He also let down his fans. He wants to begin the process of making amends and that’s what he’s going to discuss.”
The timing is peculiar. It will be held during the third round of the Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona, sure to steal attention away from the first big event of the year. Accenture was the first sponsor to drop Woods when he became embroiled in the sex scandal.
“He’s got to come out at some point,” Rory McIlroy said. “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 did not think Woods’ appearance was going to undermine a World Golf Championship 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.”
As far as the PGA Tour’s part in the Woods event, Finchem said: “We were asked to make the facility available and to help with the logistics. That’s what we’re doing.”
Steinberg said only that Woods’ appearance during the championship was “a matter of timing.” Asked if it could have waited until Monday, he said, “No.”
No other news conference this week drew a larger crowd of reporters than the 20 who surrounded Finchem, a testament to how Woods has dominated the conservation at the Match Play.
“We’re all better off when he’s playing,” Adam Scott said. “I’m curious as to when he’ll return to golf.”
As for the timing?
“It’s his choice,” Scott said. “I guess the tour is hosting it there.”
Woods made a spectacular fall from his perch atop golf. He was believed to have been the first athlete to gross $1 billion in earnings and endorsements and, at 14 majors, was closing in on golf’s record of 18 majors held by Jack Nicklaus.
It all collapsed in the early morning hours the day after Thanksgiving.
Over the last few months, Woods has been on the cover of gossip magazines and the butt of jokes on national talk shows.
In the days before Woods’ accident, a National Enquirer story alleged the world’s No. 1 golfer had been seeing a New York nightclub hostess. Following the crash, a stream of women came forward to claim they had romantic relationships with Woods. One woman provided Us Weekly magazine with a voicemail she said Woods left her three days before the crash, asking her to take his number off her phone.
Woods admitted to “infidelity” in a statement on his Web site in mid-December and has been on an indefinite break from golf ever since.
Ian Poulter, who went extra holes to win his opening match, was among those curious to hear what Woods had to say. His only hope was to hear about it later.
“Hopefully, I’ll be on the golf course and not listening to it,” he said.