Woods to return to therapy after Friday's press conference(update)

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Florida: Billionaire golfer Tiger Woods is to return to therapy after he speaks publicly for the first time about his infidelity, according to a letter from PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem that was obtained by The Associated Press.

Finchem's letter to the PGA Tour policy board and other officials explained why Woods chose Friday to make his first public comments, which are to be televised live by all the major networks.

Woods' statement comes during the Match Play Championship, sponsored by Accenture, the first company to drop Woods.

Woods is to speak at 1600 GMT from the clubhouse at TPC Sawgrass, home of the PGA Tour.

The letter shed no light on whether Woods plans to return to the tour anytime soon. - AP

Earlier reports

What will billionaire golfer Tiger Woods say on Friday?

JACKSONVILLE, Florida When Tiger Woods makes his first public appearance in nearly three months on Friday, the big question is what will he say?

The topic was intriguing Americans - Woods was a trendy subject on Twitter a full day before his appearance.

Almost as intriguing is which "friends, colleagues and close associates" will be in the Sunset Room on the second floor of the Mediterranean-style clubhouse at the TPC Sawgrass.

Woods hasn't been seen in public since crashing his car into a tree outside his Florida home on Nov. 27, sparking sordid revelations of infidelity, and he hasn't been heard in the 78 days since a magazine released a voicemail that he allegedly left for one of the women to whom he has been romantically linked, pleading with her to remove his number from her cell phone.

U.S. PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, who made the clubhouse available and was offering logistical help, has said he would attend, and as many as four other members of his executive staff will be in the room.

Security was tight by Thursday afternoon, with the main road to the clubhouse blocked off. Media were headquartered roughly a mile away at the Sawgrass Marriott, where seven satellite trucks were parked.

Inside, a couple of adjacent ballrooms where reporters will be able to watch the Woods' event looked like they were set up for a Super Bowl party.

Flat-screen TVs stood along the walls and there was a big video screen in the center of the room.

A British bookmaker has set odds at 4-to-7 that Woods' wife, Elin, will be with him. William Hill didn't stop there, however.

It offers 8-to-1 odds that Woods will announce he is getting a divorce, 12-to-1 odds that his wife is pregnant and 100-to-1 odds that he is retiring.

"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," his agent, Mark Steinberg, said in an e-mail on Wednesday.

"He also let down his fans. He wants to begin the process of making amends and that's what he's going to discuss."

Woods essentially will be speaking to the lone camera allowed in the room. It will be televised live via satellite.

Three networks - ABC, CBS and NBC - will carry the statement live. ESPN will have it live on all its platforms, including Internet streaming, radio and mobile.

The Golf Channel will start coverage at 10:30 a.m. - call it a 30-minute pregame show.

Steinberg invited three reporters from wire services - The Associated Press, Reuters and Bloomberg - and he turned to the Golf Writers Association of America to come up with a pool of three reporters.

"This is not a press conference," Steinberg said on Wednesday, the same day photos of Woods jogging in Florida were released.

Woods has always been about control, even in better times. He refused to go into the media center before a U.S. PGA Tour event if he was not the defending champion.

If he agreed to a 10-minute interview to pitch a product he endorses, it was common for a company employee to be in the room making sure it didn't go one second beyond that.

But having not heard from Woods - except for three statements on his Web site - in three months, this event has taken on a life of its own.

Conversation raged online, as many took glee in speculating on what Woods will say Friday.

The golfer was the hottest topic on Google Trends. On Twitter, Woods was a dominant topic.

One of the most popular threads were tweets with the tag "tigershouldsay." Suggestions were predominantly sarcastic, such as: "At least I didn't use steroids."

Live events during work hours on weekdays have traditionally meant for robust traffic on the Web, since many viewers will be at work in front of computers, rather than home in front of TVs.

The U.S. PGA Tour will have two tournaments in progress on Friday, including the third round of the Accenture Match Play Championship, the first title sponsor to drop Woods during this sex scandal.

Some players did not think it was a coincidence.

Most of them, however, will be just like everyone else - curious what Woods has to say, and how he says it.

"It has to be held at some stage," Padraig Harrington said.

"The sooner he makes a statement, the better. And the sooner he's back to playing golf - he's pretty good at playing golf - the better." - AP

Woods hopes tightly controlled mea culpa works

NEW YORK: The ritual celebrity apology: We've seen it time and again, from Kanye West to Mark Sanford to John Edwards to Mel Gibson to Mark McGwire. And now it's Tiger Woods' turn.

Only this time there will be no Oprah, no Leno, no "Nightline" - no inquisitor at all, just a single camera, some unidentified friends and a handful of reporters, unable to ask questions.

Woods is gambling that his words and charisma can achieve the public redemption that he sorely needs.

"The whole world has been waiting for three long months," says Laura Ries, who heads a brand strategy firm in Atlanta.

"And the longer he's postponed it, the bigger it's become."

Media organizations are naturally angry that Woods, who until now has only issued a written apology, is refusing questions. They see it as the same old Tiger - the Tiger who always played by his own rules when it came to the media, stage-managing the carefully selected appearances he made.

Yet many others can understand why he's handling his public confession this way.

"He's not stupid," says sports psychologist Mitchell Abrams.

"At least this way no one can stump him - he'll only be saying what his PR people have already vetted."

But the whole approach could backfire, notes Rick Burton, a communications professor who specializes in sports marketing.

"He's trying to control the moment, but the problem is that by not having a dialogue where he can look into someone's eyes, he's going to continue to seem impersonal," says Burton.

"It's Communications 101 - you tell your story in a personal way. But clearly his advisers, family and friends think this is the way to go."

Besides, the media will spin the story the way they see it, adds Burton, of Syracuse University.

"Tiger may think that just by looking into the camera he'll be speaking directly to the public, but the reality is that the media is going to interpret his communication.

"And so right away, Tiger has lost control."

Journalists may be irate, but the public may not notice or even care that there will be no give and take with the world's best golfer.

Experts agree it all depends on what he says - and even more importantly, how he says it.

First, Woods needs to be contrite - genuinely, unmistakably contrite - not to mention humble, and visibly aware of what he's done both to his image and his marriage, says John Sweeney, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's journalism school.

And much of that has to do with the nonverbal cues Woods gives.

"Look, people have been waiting for this for a long time," says Sweeney, who is director of sports communication at the school.

"They're going to be looking into his eyes tomorrow. If he can convey true, heartfelt remorse with the one camera available, then he has a chance at getting back the incredible good will fans had for him.

"But if they see the old Tiger - the one who gives an impersonal statement and then is outta there - then it'll just be another slam against his brand," Sweeney says.

"If he mishandles this, some people are just gonna walk away thinking, 'You kept us waiting months, for this? You put your wife through tabloid hell, for this?'"

Indeed, one nonverbal cue that would help Woods enormously Friday would be the presence of his wife, Elin.

"Obviously the best-case scenario is that she's there, in the front row," says Ries.

"Of course it can be painful to watch, as it was with Eliot Spitzer's wife," she says.

"But having the wife there says a lot. If she can forgive him, why not everyone else?"

So what precisely should a contrite Woods say? Enough to answer the most pressing questions, but not TOO much about the sordid recent past, some say.

"I don't want to hear too many details about sex addiction," says Ries, president of the Ries and Ries branding firm.

"I don't need to hear anything New Agey either. But he needs to give us the State of the Union of Tiger. And he needs to talk about golf, too. Is he going back? When, exactly? People want to know that he has a future ahead of him, that he's not some randy frat boy but a champion who wants to focus on golf and his family."

And while he's talking about that, make sure it's not too polished, offers Pauline Wallin, a psychologist who deals with impulsive behavior.

"The less rehearsed the better," says Wallin.

"He needs to be authentic. If he stumbles on his words, people will believe it more - a little bit of rambling might help, too."

And another thing, Wallin adds: "He still needs to go on a talk show. The public expects that now. You do something wrong, you go on a talk show."

To some, it won't matter much what Woods says or how he says it.

Any apology will have a false ring to it, says ethics columnist Randy Cohen, because the evidence shows that Woods clearly enjoyed what he was doing - so much that he did it again and again and again.

"So what is this apology, other than a relentless pursuit of self-interest?" Cohen asks.

"He hopes his wife will come back, that he can play golf again and make money again. But it will be hard to be persuaded that he's changed his view of anything, other than he regrets getting caught."

But from a strategic point of view, will the apology work? "Probably," Cohen laughs.

"In our country we love this cycle of sin, confession mixed with remorse, readmission to society, repeat as needed. We have songs about it. You sin on Saturday night, confess on Sunday morning, and you're back at it the next Saturday night."

As a society, we may need the ritual apology - in any case, we certainly won't be able to resist watching it.

But we mustn't forget, notes Abrams, the psychologist, that we're not the ones who really deserve the apology in the first place.

"There's a family we should be thinking about," says Abrams.

"A real family, with children, and their future is in the balance. I hope for their sake that they work this out. And they shouldn't have to do it in public." - AP

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