December 15, 2009 (Updated Dec. 17) --A person could argue that during the first few days (week?) of the Tiger Woods saga that it was a celebrity 'news' story and not a golf news story. A middle-of-the-night accident, alleged (at the time) marital infidelity, and you know the rest. But now that Woods has announced he is taking a leave from the game and his foundation, and major sponsors are ending agreements, this is now a bonafide golf news story because nobody knows when or if the best player in the world will return.
Some of the 'news' has focused on Tiger's time in Las Vegas, but much of it is focused on his affairs and daliances that have taken place, basically, across the globe, and not just in Las Vegas. Tiger's official ties to Las Vegas are well chronicled, from almost playing college golf at UNLV to working with Las Vegas resident and swing guru Butch Harmon for more than a decade to working with physical therapist Keith Kleven to winning his first PGA Tour event, the 1996 Las Vegas Invitational, to hosting his annual Tiger Jam charity event in Las Vegas. Now time will tell how his leave will affect his Las Vegas golf ties, but that is a small piece to the Woods saga which seemingly continues to surge on a daily basis. Maybe the best question is, will Tiger ever return from his hiatus?
"After much soul searching, I have decided to take an indefinite break from professional golf," Woods recently wrote at TigerWoods.com. "I need to focus my attention on being a better husband, father, and person. Again, I ask for privacy for my family and I am especially grateful for all those who have offered compassion and concern during this difficult period." With those words, this story went from celebrity news to hard golf news, and now the question is how long will the after shock be felt?
In recent days, Gillette has announced it will respect Woods' privacy and not run campaigns featuring Woods, while Accenture became the first major sponsor to officially sever all ties with Woods, saying in a statement that Woods was "No longer the right representative" for the brand. Gatorade is also said to be stopping production of its Tiger-branded products. But other major sponsors, including Nike and Tag Heuer, are sticking with Woods. Nike Chairman Phil Knight has been very vocal in his support. "I think he's been really great," Knight said in an interview published on Monday by Street and Smith's Sports Business Journal. "When his career is over, you'll look back on these indiscretions as a minor blip, but the media is making a big deal out of it right now."
The Tiger Jam is a big Las Vegas event and has featured some of the biggest celebrities and bands in the world including Van Halen, Bon Jovi, Christina Aguilera, No Doubt, Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, kevin James, and many others. Tiger Jam golf events have taken place at Las Vegas golf courses Cascata and Rio Secco Golf Club, two fabulous Rees Jones-designed golf courses, while the concert and parties have been at the Mandalay Bay Resort. Millions have been raised for the Tiger Woods Foundation through the event. AT&T, a large Tiger Woods sponsor in addition to being the presenting sponsor of Tiger Jam, is reported to be evaluating the deal with Tiger that also includes the PGA Tour's AT&T National, an event that benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation. On Friday, Woods released the following statement on the Foundation's website, saying that he will also be stepping away from the Foundation for the time being.
"Since my Dad and I created the Foundation, this work has been extremely important to me," Woods stated. "I started the organization because I sincerely believe in giving back. There are millions of young people who have truly changed their lives through the Foundation's programs, and millions more still counting on us for help. I am committed to them and to the Foundation's excellent work, and I know my staff will continue these efforts during my absence." To this point, the representatives at his foundation, the ones who work hard on a daily basis to help thousands of children and also organize the annual Tiger Jam, have not returned calls or email requests for comment about the state of Tiger Jam 2010. But Greg McGlaughlin, Tiger Woods Foundation President and Tournament Director for the AT&T National, is quoted as saying he "remains confident the event (AT&T National) will move forward as planned." On December 17, in a quote emailed from Director of PR Rachel Rees for the Tiger Woods Foundation, McGlaughlin was quoted thusly: "There is nothing new to announce regarding Tiger Jam at this time. We hope to announce a date once it has been finalized. A number of factors go into determining the date, including the Tiger Woods Foundation schedule and artist availability."
"I am deeply aware of the disappointment and hurt that my infidelity has caused to so many people, most of all my wife and children," Tiger also wrote at TigerWoods.com. "I want to say again to everyone that I am profoundly sorry and that I ask forgiveness. It may not be possible to repair the damage I've done, but I want to do my best to try. I would like to ask everyone, including my fans, the good people at my foundation, business partners, the PGA Tour, and my fellow competitors, for their understanding. What's most important now is that my family has the time, privacy, and safe haven we will need for personal healing." For the sake of the children who are helped by the Tiger Woods Foundation, let's hope there is some way that continued support is found to help them, and they don't become collateral damage in this saga.