A no-win situation for Tiger Woods

For years, Michael Josephson, the L.A.-based ethicist who preaches the value of integrity and character, routinely would cite Tiger Woods as a good role model, going so far as to feature the golfer’s quotes on his institute’s calendars.

“We’ve had to change those calendars,” Josephson said. “We’ve taken those pages out.”

One year ago, in the early-morning hours, a minor car accident inside a gated Florida development where Woods lived with his wife, Elin, and their two children triggered a cascade of events that left the sports world stunned.


First came the revelation that Woods had been unfaithful to his wife more than once, which led to a five-month break from golf and a stint in a rehabilitation center followed by a divorce. Amid the tumult, Woods struggled through a PGA Tour season in which he didn’t win one tournament for the first time in his 15 years on tour.

Making Josephson’s calendar is probably not high on Woods’ to-do list. Winning a golf tournament surely must be. Finding a path back to what was once considered inevitable — passing Jack Nicklaus’ 18 major victories — most certainly is.

Last week, Woods, who has 14 major titles but none since the 2008 U.S. Open, was bidding to reshape his image and stop being the butt of jokes. He wrote an op-ed piece for Newsweek and appeared on ESPN Radio’s “Mike and Mike Show.”

He even tiptoed into the social media world, joining Twitter and gaining 258,075 followers in a week. Yet he has tweeted only four times. And that leaves Kathleen Hessert puzzled. Hessert, who helped Shaquille O’Neal on his successful Twitter career, suggests that for social media to work, there needs to be a strategy.

“With Tiger it should be aligned with his business goals,” she said. “If it’s not, it sure as heck should be. It’s clear he hasn’t jumped in full-fledged, but I’m guessing next week it will be much more serious because he’ll be playing in his tournament. Using Twitter there could have a double positive whammy.”

Next week’s Chevron World Challenge at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks is important to the former No. 1 golfer because all proceeds go to the Tiger Woods Foundation.

Bubba Watson, who is in the Chevron field, said many golfers were able to make their mark in 2010 while Woods battled his demons.

“We were all having fun with him away,” Watson said. “Hopefully, he comes back stronger than ever because when he’s winning the whole world changes. Golf becomes better, bigger. His personality draws eyes to all of us.

“And then when you win, it’s even better.”

CBS golf announcer Jim Nantz said there will be no one happier to see 2011 arrive than Woods.

“The turn of the calendar will be the most refreshing thing to happen to Tiger’s game,” Nantz said. “I expected, after what happened, that 2010 was going to be a lost year, that there would be no way of fighting out of it. Now he’s back on a Tour with a new depth of young talent that has been emboldened by success. But for those who think Tiger is done or that he won’t pass Jack, you’re jumping off the bandwagon way too soon.”

USC golf coach Chris Zambri played in the 1999 U.S. Open, in which a 23-year-old Woods finished third, two shots behind Payne Stewart and a shot behind Phil Mickelson.

“I could tell he would be dominating,” Zambri said of Woods. “He was the best winner, had the best game, the best work ethic, the most talent. Honestly, I don’t think anybody will play like that again and I don’t know if he ever gets that back.

“It’s interesting to see how something in his private life has affected his game so much.”

Josephson hears talk of redemption and comparisons between Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick and Woods.

Vick is two years into a comeback after serving time in prison for his involvement in a dogfighting ring. Stories of the torture and death of animals owned by Vick made him a pariah even among his staunchest fans.

Playing for a team that already had a star quarterback in Donovan McNabb allowed Vick to reenter the spotlight gradually, and this season he has become a candidate for NFL most valuable player as he turned the Eagles into a legitimate Super Bowl contender.

“People are entitled to be able to redeem themselves,” Josephson said. “When we look at this, let’s look at Tiger first. We’ve seen some public quietude and remorse, but it’s hard to judge if it’s really sincere because it was so clearly written by somebody else, so we have no way of knowing whether there is internal remorse. Is he really ashamed of himself and entitled to redemption?

“Vick is a different character. He’s demonstrating another side of character. He’s a great football player now. He wasn’t displaying that in the last couple of years before his arrest. I believe people were commenting on how he wasn’t working hard or committed to football. So there was already a rap on Michael Vick that he had a bad work ethic.

“Clearly, that has changed; he seems to have significantly improved his work ethic and that’s more important to his image because that’s what he always was. A great football player. He may still not be a great human being, but he has redeemed himself as a great football player.

“Tiger was a great golfer, but he also capitalized on a false image. … Everybody knew Michael Vick as a jerk even before the dog issue. We didn’t know that side of Tiger.”

Richard Burton, professor of sports management at Syracuse University who is the former chief marketing officer for the U.S. Olympic Committee, compared Woods to the title character in the movie “The Truman Show.”

“Maybe Tiger is doing the best he can,” Burton said. “Maybe he came from a scripted life. Is he the equivalent of Truman, escaping from the bubble he was in and now that we’ve caught him and put him back in the bubble he’s trying to be this guy we enjoyed in ‘The Tiger Show’?

“Maybe he’s not going to be able to go back being the old Tiger … the world’s best golfer.”