December 2, 2021

Has Tiger Woods Really Changed? His Closing Interview Tells me “NO!”

I just watched the finish of The Masters.  Congrats to Phil Mickelson.  I was pulling for Anthony Kim, because I do want to see a young rising superstar set the bar for future golfers and trust me…his time will come!    Having said that, my hat is off to Phil Mickelson, considering the tough year he has faced with his wife’s illness.

Now…onto Tiger Woods.  When asked about his “emotional state” on the 14th  hole, Tiger’s response was something to the effect of “I think too much is being made about this issue” or something along these lines.  I am sure that I am misquoting, so Tiger…I am sorry if I have my facts wrong (like you would ever would read this blog).  In my opinion, Tiger just put a proverbial nail in his coffin around 7:00 p.m. today…a coffin that is already on its way to six feet under by getting defensive on a very legitimate question…one that we all want to know…”What was your emotional state this week AND on that hole when you seemed to just walk away from a sure thing and just slacked off and putted like you didn’t care”…what was he thinking on that answer…that he can just diss the media when asked about it???  Did you think the media and the public  would say “Oh Tiger…we are so sorry you did not win the Masters…what do you think prevented you from  finishing in the lead…was it a bad hair day?  Was it the pollen?   Or…did you wear magenta instead of cherry red for your shirt???”

Here is my position…when you are the leader of an industry or the role model of an industry like the world of professional golf, when your character falls into the cracks, if you then seek help from a rehab center and you are truly “rehabilitated”, the public is expecting that your responses to the media will be honorable,  consistent and humble.  You don’t have to “fake it”.  You show to the public AND the media that you understand the public’s  disappointment, confusion/questions and frustration. Tiger….Everyone wants to know if finishing fourth had ANYTHING to do with your private problems as of Thanksgiving week-end, and of course, we are looking for an answer from you…not that we are “making too much of this”.  I usually despise the media for their hounding and what I perceive to be harassment, but on this occasion…the media positioned themselves with class and true curiosity and professionalism…not as an industry  looking for a great story that would sell copy.  I believe the media was asking questions as true spokeswomen and spokesmen of the greater public…and Tiger…you had the gall to talk to the media as if they were making too much of a situation that we are all just totally confused about!  We are now all more confused and wondering if your entire week of hat-tipping, “thank-yous” and head bowing were just an act.

The entire week, Tiger appeared to be walking on eggshells, tipping his hat, saying ‘thank you’, and doing all that he could to restrain his bad temper and to “act” as if he “had his act together”.  In my opinion, he does not, and he needs to take a year off and go to rehab with his wife and children.  I do applaud Tiger for going to rehab and for coming back and trying, but you cannot change a tiger’s stripes (yes…a put is indeed intended but ’tis true!)  in 4-5 months.  Today, it began to show as the lead slipped through his fingers that Tiger was losing his cool and that he is not ready to come back…he needs to get his act together and get ready for the media to ask him any question they want and to be ready to answer (I agree that he needs to be interviewed by someone in the media who is African American…I think Oprah is a good choice to ask the tough questions and to get him to answer honestly…what happened, and what are your plans for rehab…until he answers, no one is going to leave him alone) .    At the end of the tournament when Tiger acted as if the media was “making too much of his emotional state” something was at play.  I was sitting at dinner listening to others around me in a restaurant in Raleigh, NC.  Here is what I heard:

A) Tiger is still in denial and a bit think that the media would not be asking questions about 14+ affairs (and I am being conservative) is just absurd…of course the media is going to want to know about Tiger’s emotional state following a 2-3 year series of affairs.  If Tiger thinks for one minute that these questions are not going to be asked and are not relevant to his ability to focus, he is simply not accepting that his personal life has a direct impact on his game.

B) A true case of narcissism…Again…I am not a therapist, but it seems to me that Tiger MAY believe that the rest of the world’s rules don’t apply to him, so he is “exempt” from the media’s questioning about this emotional state…give me a break!  Is Tiger in a different league than Lindsay Lohan, Jesse James, John Edwards or Brittney Spears?  Sorry Tiger…you are NOT in a league all of your own…you are not in a league that says “Tiger Woods is in an athletic category that the rest of the world does not fit into, so we cannot ask him questions that relate to his emotional state or personal life…as a top professional athlete, you signed up for a scrutiny-free policy from the public, and you can just disrespect the media, because you are Tiger Woods!”  I think the questions asked today were VERY respectful.  Tiger could have been asked a question like “Hey Tiger…did the 14 women who have come forward in the past 5 month have any type of impact on the 3-putt you had on 14?”  Nope…the media was SO kind and professional, and as usual, Tiger had to respond in Tiger fashion by saying that the media was making too much about this situation.  In  Tiger’s mind, he is exempt from being asked tough questions, that the media is not intelligent and childish and that he does not have to answer anything to the media  unless he wants to.  I am sure a great PR company has advised him, so for those of you who are his PR reps…guess what…TRANSPARENCY AND GRATITUDE are now the name of the game.  While I agree with the fact that Tiger was at the Masters to play golf this week and he really does not have to answer ANY questions,   he does not need to “scold” the media for making too much about an unfortunate situation that has hurt his family and has changed the world of golf forever for the  future of  young golfers for the next two decades.

C) Tiger was upset and stressed because he did not win, and his true side came out when the heat was turned up (which is both A & B of above).  When under stress, a true side comes out.  While I understand Tiger’s disappointment and stress today, he could have handled his closing interview with grace and respect, and he did not…a sign that this is Tiger’s true side…to dismiss questions from the media which are relevant and rightful.  To me, this is a sign that Tiger was not and is not ready to return to professional golf.  When Tiger can respond with full responsibility to the press, treat each question with respect and answer each question honestly, this will be the sign that he is ready to return to the profession.

If you are a leader reading this, I encourage you to consider the concept of emotional hijacking…meaning, when the stress is on, your true side comes out.  This can be overcome with YEARS of training and support from a psychotherapist or coaching.  Tiger is not there yet (in my opinion, and I am not a therapist…I am a coach…I work with CEOs every day who deal with these issues).  If Tiger were truly in control and in the direction of recovery, an appropriate response to the media today would have been:

“You know…I certainly understand your question about my emotional state considering the events that have transpired over the last five months.  Today…I was emotionally sound and solid, and I just did not hit the bell as well as I have been known to do in the past and misread a few puttt, but I thank you for your concern about my private life, those questions are legitimate and Elin and I are choosing to keep that part of our lives private.  It is my commitment to continiue to be dedicated to working on my personal life,  being a positive role model for the next generation of golfers, and if my negative emotions were showing today, I want to apologize to the PGA, my sponsors, colleagues,  Team Tiger, viewers and my fans.  I can assure you that I will work on that in the next few months before I return to the professional golf arena, and I will make a commitment to working on my emotional intelligence for the next several months, even years.    I admit that I have a lot of work to do in this area, and I will do what I can to grow and to mature into a golfer who is a role model for both young men and women for the present and future of golf.”

In closing, I am and always have been an Tiger Woods fan.  I want to see him succeed.  It is now time for him to step up to the plate, answer the tough questions and be the leader that the world wants to see.  We will all be so forgiving if he will just step up and answer the questions, treat the media (who he has played to the nth degree) with respect and be the role model that we all want to see for the world.

Here’s to the true gentleman’s game!  Congrats to Phil…you have done us proud!

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