Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Tiger Woods to get behind keyboard for Q&A with fans

LAS VEGAS, NV - APRIL 28: Golfer Tiger Woods speaks at Tiger Jam 2012 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center April 28, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Tiger Woods always has been ahead of his time, bashing down conventional barriers with all the haste of an SUV ploughing through a fire hydrant. And now he aims his ball-crusher at the media centre.

For the first time since he announced "hello world", Woods will not talk to the Press before Thursday's first round of the Quail Hollow Championship.



In place of those incite-laden meetings with the microphones, notebook and dictaphones, he of the huge heart and generous soul will conduct a Q&A with golf fans on his social websites. To hell with the hacks, he is laying himself open to the hackers.



Of course, this has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that he doesn't want to face his many friends in the world of journalism and go through the tiresome process of explaining his already infamous club-kicking escapade at Augusta or, indeed, his worst finish at The Masters as a professional. No, on his first appearance in a month Woods merely wants "direct interaction with the fans".



Maybe we should scream "Hallelujah!" as, in the past, Woods' "direct interaction with the fans" has been limited to his wild drives directly interacting with foreheads. Or maybe we should treat his cyberspaced transformation into Phil Mickelson a trifle cynically. In fact, maybe we should go further than this and view it solely from a PR standpoint. Certainly there will be many a slick spin executive logging on today to see if Team Tiger can get away with it. "Control the message," is this breed's mantra. And as far as control goes, Facebook and Twitter are the dominatrices of all media.



Woods won't be in front of his computer on his own. The most we can hope is that he is in front of his computer at all. Flanking him will be advisers, providing such sage advice as "Tiger, don't answer that Tweet about who was better: the porn queen or the waitress". Instead they will direct him to the cribsheet containing "The Message".



We can but pray that entails rather more than Woods revealing how excited he is with the work with Sean Foley, how "the reps" are helping "his traj", how he is progressing in negating his old swing thoughts, not forgetting that he will be in Charlotte, North Carolina, with the same ambition as ever – to win. Who knows, we may get Woods apologising for his latest round of on-course petulance with an "I didn't like what I saw either" and a vow to clean up his act. It won't be anything we haven't heard before. Only the date will have changed.



So, ready oneself for statements of his pride in his foundation, bland anecdotes about his children, and even blander stories about the giggles he has with his pals in the locker room. Last night he happened to be on stage with Bon Jovi at his charity bash, the "TigerJam", but he won't go near the query from the wag who will inevitably ask "Did you do a duet with Jon Bon Jovi of 'You Give Love a Bad Name'?" Believe it, this will be more staged and less spontaneous than the Queen's Speech.



Granted, Woods shouldn't have to respond to any salacious or over-personal questions, but what would be nice is if he allowed in the inquisitors even so far as to prick his psyche. Is there self-doubt caused by his spectacular fall from sainthood? Does he, himself, feel the absence of past aura? When he turns out the lights at night, does he genuinely believe he can still break Jack Nicklaus's record? Does he want to be loved, does he care about his reputation? Or simply his record?



The truth is, Woods doesn't want to let in any outsider and hence when someone like a former coach dares to write about life within the inner sanctum, Tiger reacts like a schoolgirl whose diary has been stolen. Fair enough, if that's the way he wants to be then that's the way he should be. Yet spare us the pretence, spare us the willing superstar act.



Mark Steinberg, Woods' ever-lovable agent, claims today's web love-in came about because of the realisation that "we are probably a little bit behind with social media". The "we" says plenty, if not everything. Woods should only enter social media because "he" wants to; just as Joey Barton drives Twitter barmy because "he" wants to, just as Ian Poulter lets us know what colour strides he plans to wear, because "he" wants to. If the individual wished to join in the cyberspace fun, then he surely would have by now. But he hasn't and he shouldn't because the audience will see right through the corporate keystrokes.



But then, perhaps I am misunderstanding the motive, because Woods would like nothing more than to start a trend in which other golfers, other sports stars, stop talking to the press and engage only within the clinically-controlled environs of web-land. Who needs those prying journalists, who needs the damn media? You'd hope a man who earns roughly £50m in off-course earnings would understand exactly "who?". As might Woods' 10-percenter. So mice at the ready. Let us nibble at their flimsy facade.

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