Though reports have surfaced that Tiger Woods has a new "girlfriend," no one knows for sure if Tiger Woods has gone back to keeping company with women who like to get paid for their various "talents."
But judging by the treatment Tiger has gotten while hawking his latest video game, his needs are still being serviced by those being paid to perform.
This week, in less than 24 hours, Tiger Woods was seen doing rare formal "interviews" on NBC, ESPN and two different shows on the Golf Channel. Not once in those four appearances was he asked what could be remotely described as a difficult question.
Instead, Tiger was largely given an unfettered platform from which to sell the 2012 version of his EA Sports video game.
During most of his air time, the hosts were actually reduced to being forced to awkwardly play Tiger in the game itself. (Tiger actually picked up his first public victory in a year and a half when he conquered Jimmy Fallon and Amy Poehler). One segment dragged on so long that even Tiger earnestly asked, "Out of curiosity, how long is this show?"
One would think that in exchange for the free gift of priceless advertising time, Tiger would at least submit to some of the many tough questions he has yet to answer, or which have yet to be asked.
But apparently, in our celebrity-driven world, if your star is perceived as big enough, there are more than enough media outlets willing to whore themselves out.
The most embarrassing of these episodes occurred on the Golf Channel's new "Morning Drive" program, hosted by a former ESPN anchor and Sirius radio host.
The channel hyped Tiger's first appearance on their show for a full week. After endless network-wide promos, what the viewer got was Tiger, from a remote studio in an undisclosed location, playing his video game with one of the hosts. He then answered a couple of quick questions from the other anchor. The questions were so gentle they sounded like they could have been written by Larry King.
Even more absurd was that the entire segment was clearly taped ahead of time—yet the audience was never told that.
ESPN's Tom Rinaldi and the Golf Channel's Kelly Tilghman at least pretended to try. These were the very same men who were hand picked by Tiger to do his first post-scandal "interviews," only lasting about five minutes each.
But both have gone out of their way in the past to prove Tiger would have nothing to fear in scheduling a return engagement. Heck, Tilghman probably still has her job because Tiger let her off the hook (unlike what happened with Fuzzy Zoeller) for her infamous "lynching" comment in reference to him.
The only person to speak with Tiger and display even a semblance of balls was NBC late-night host, Jimmy Fallon. While he didn't press Tiger on anything dicey, at least he had enough self-respect to thank Woods for all of the comedy material he had provided since his last visit.
Watching Woods laugh meekly while Fallon listed many of the golf/sex double entendres, was a seminal moment in the demise of his once invulnerable aura.
The old Tiger would have melted Fallon with a death glare. This feckless version was reduced to pretending to enjoy being ridiculed on national television.
So, what should Tiger have been asked? Well, putting aside for a moment the many "old" questions (I've never understood why a question becomes "old" when it has never been asked and answered) directly related to the scandal, there are many "brand new" ones that should have been obvious.
Here are just a few:
You are here to sell your video game. Last year's version had sales down about 60 percent. Why do you think that happened? Was your scandal responsible? What do you say to parents who are clearly hesitant to purchase your game for their children?
For the first time ever, your picture is not on the cover of the video game. Why is that? Is EA trying to hide your involvement with the game?
Also for the first time, the game features Augusta National Golf Club. Last year the chairman of the club blasted you publicly. How did that situation impact the evolution of this business endeavor? Do you see any conflict of interest in going into business with a club that runs one of the four major championships and determines tee times, rules violations and weather delays, all of which could have an impact on the nature of the competition?
You are currently fifth in the world rankings, the lowest you have been since the turn of the century. What would be the lowest ranking you could see yourself falling to? At what point in your ranking fall should people start to accept that you are no longer a significant force in the game?
You have always said that your only goal in any tournament is winning and yet you seemed pretty pleased with a back-door top 10 at Doral. When was the last time you were happy with a back-door top 10?
Then there are the "scandal" questions that have never been properly addressed. For instance:
Where were you going that late Thanksgiving night in your car with no shoes?
You have claimed (sort of) that Elin had nothing to do with the accident, so how did three of your back windows get broken?
Where did your buddy with the Associated Press (Doug Ferguson) get the idea for his initial reporting that Elin broke those windows in an effort to "save" you?
Where did you disappear to after the scandal broke? How did you stay out of the public eye?
And while we're at it, is it true, as your former teachers now say, that you made up that racial incident you allegedly endured as a kid in Orange County? What other lies have you told the public?
(For those who laughably claim that such questions are "personal," the accident was a public event, his truthfulness was made relevant by his own promises to change, and it is quite clear that the scandal directly caused his golf game to go into an extended tailspin.)
Of course none of these questions will ever be asked because Tiger usually only makes himself available to the golf "press" and there is no more unqualified and gutless group of "journalists" in the world. These are people who will never do anything to jeopardize their incredibly cushy gigs and who almost literally owe their jobs to Tiger increasing the game's popularity.
In that last point lies heart of why Tiger is shielded from tough questions. Why is it that so many in the golf media continue to think/pretend (much like Tiger himself) that any moment now Woods is going to step out of a phone booth with an S on his chest and instantly regain his once invincible powers?