Tiger Woods and the Media: Who's Really Bringing the Circus to Augusta?

Teddy MitrosilisAnalyst IMarch 18, 2010

Tiger Woods will roll into Augusta early next month, exchange a few awkward how-do-you-dos with his colleagues, and then he will head to the practice range.

He will blister balls deep into the Georgia sunset, stroke putt after putt on the immaculate practice green until dinner calls, and then he will go to sleep and wake up to repeat the process.

Woods will stroll to the first tee on Thursday, head down, gaze forward, and he will begin the most turbulent chapter of his young life the same way he defined his previous years until a Thanksgiving evening gone wrong.

Whether Woods should be staging his ballyhooed return to golf at The Masters is debatable.

Is it right for him to use the inherent securities of the year’s first major tournament to return to golf, knowing the number and type of media present will be controlled?

I suppose that’s debatable, too.

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If you listen to the angry leeches in the media, then you will believe that Woods should have made his return to golf before The Masters, perhaps at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

But let's not confuse the sensationalistic views of a few with true morality as it pertains to golf. Those lambasting Woods about his return are not worried about the good of the game more than next morning’s column. Don’t be fooled.

There are too many commentators calling for Woods to show up to Bay Hill not to clear the air for Augusta but rather for their personal gain. Those who opine for a living want as much access as possible. Access is the heartbeat behind their voices.

Fair enough.

Then why don’t we just say it that way?

Bay Hill would have provided a perfect opportunity for the members of the media to grill Woods. The fact that he is not providing them that opportunity is what they find upsetting because their publications prey on Woods’ personal failings.

What’s bad for Woods is great for business.

Since Woods chose The Masters as his first tournament since admitting his affairs, the popular thing to do is to charge him with bringing a circus to the most tight-collar and respected golf club in America.

Except that’s not the case.

Woods isn’t bringing the circus to The Masters. Those who can’t get enough of the gossip headlines are the ones fueling the beast.

TMZ and other gossip-rich publications in this country have fried Woods since last November. But there are others outside of the United States drooling over the opportunity to take a couple hacks at Woods.

Their mouths are frothing. They are Pavlov’s dogs and Woods is the bell.

“How typical of the man to hijack the world’s most famous golf tournament,” British columnist Oliver Holt wrote. “How could he turn Augusta into a circus like this? Does his vanity know no limits?”

Toronto Star columnist Dave Perkins had this to say, “So that’s what Tiger Woods meant when he said he would be fighting the temptations: He’s coming back to golf at a club that doesn’t allow women. Bada-boom.”

That’s a small taste of the wreckage.

I’m not going to blame Perkins for making fun of Woods. He surely isn’t the only one cracking jokes on Woods’ behalf, and there’s no denying Woods’ deserves to be the butt of some one-liners.

But to say Woods is putting himself above The Masters is inaccurate.

Look, Woods knows the security Augusta offers him that other venues can’t. He did, after all, hire image guru Ari Fleischer to help with his return.

Woods also knows that he is going to have to face the onslaught of jokes, taunts, and hungry media members at some point.

Whether it’s his first tournament back or his second, he is going to be faced with the uncomfortable questions and the media frenzy.

Whether he addresses those questions or not is his call, but they are coming. As is the occasional verbal bomb from the gallery.

But Woods is a golfer. He’s not a politician. He doesn’t need to beg for the public’s approval.

As much as some would like him to fall to his knees and do so, the public doesn’t stare down a 20-foot putt to win the green jacket and sink it. That’s Woods’ domain.

Woods owns four green jackets and 14 major titles total. He’s four away from Jack Nicklaus’ major record of 18.

Did you ever think for a minute that Woods would skip an opportunity to inch one title closer to The Golden Bear?

That record still means as much as ever to Woods. It’s in his blood, ingrained in his psyche. Competitors never fully relinquish the need to excel.

Woods wants to go to Augusta and focus on playing golf. We can all agree on that much. If there’s anything he doesn’t want, it’s the circus that will come with the pestering questions.

Woods thinks he can win this tournament. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t have entered.

If the self-righteous members of the media are truly concerned about “respecting the game” and the tradition of Augusta, then they will leave their machetes at home that weekend. If they are going to publicly call for this tournament to be only about the golf, then they need to do their part.

Can we expect that? Of course not. Their job isn’t to tell great stories as much as it is to tell stories that sell papers and attract viewers.

But, oh, how refreshing it would be to watch Woods come back to the course that he has dominated and actually allow fans to focus on the remarkable possibility of Woods winning a major tournament after spending five months in personal exile.

It’s a sports story worth telling, and it doesn’t need the media-induced circus as a sidebar. 

Follow Teddy Mitrosilis on Twitter . You can reach him at tm4000@yahoo.com.

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