DESPITE presenting his side of the car-crash story and asking that it remain “a private matter,” Tiger Woods may still not be in the clear.
Troopers arriving at his Isleworth home requesting an interview were turned down for a third straight day, but the Florida Highway Patrol said it will continue to investigate. Yet the tabloid-fuelled rumours now swirling around one of the world’s richest and most recognisable athletes could turn out to be more troublesome still.
About an hour before the troopers arrived on Sunday, Woods released a statement on his website taking responsibility for – but providing few details about – the middle-of-the-night accident that left him dazed, bruised and bloodied.
His statement on the website said: “I appreciate all the concern and well wishes that we have received. But, I would also ask for some understanding that my family and I deserve some privacy no matter how intrusive some people can be.
“This is a private matter and I want to keep it that way,” Woods said. “Although I understand there is curiosity, the many false, unfounded and malicious rumours that are currently circulating about my family and me are irresponsible.”
The reference in his statement to “false, unfounded and malicious rumours” may have involved a story published last week in the National Enquirer alleging that Woods had been seeing a New York nightclub hostess, Rachel Uchitel. She told the Associated Press on Sunday “this is not a story I have anything to do with”.
Yet several public relations experts believed there was little chance of Woods’s request being honoured.
“The goal of putting out a statement, or having a press conference, is to make sure questions are answered so you’re not continuing to have questions that are crisis-related,” said Mike Paul, whose firm, MGP & Associates, frequently works with athletes. “There are still over a dozen questions we have regarding his reputation because the statement is not enough.”
The incident occurred outside Woods’s home about 2.25am Friday morning, police said. Authorities said after Woods, 33, crashed his black Cadillac Escalade SUV into a fire hydrant then a neighbour’s tree, Nordegren used a golf club to smash a back-seat window, gain entry to the vehicle and then pull out her 6ft 1in, 13 stone 3lb husband.
Police reported that when officers arrived, Woods was lying on the ground with facial cuts, drifting in and out of consciousness. Left unanswered, however, are many questions. Where was Woods going at that hour? What caused the accident? And why remain quiet about it?
When troopers arrived at Woods’s home on Sunday, his attorney, Mark NeJame, gave them Woods’s driver’s licence, registration and insurance, as required by law for such accidents.
This time, the meeting was not rescheduled.
The accident – and the lack of details about it – could tarnish Woods’s gold-plated brand on Madison Avenue, warns Robert Tuchman, executive vice president with Premier Global Sports, which puts corporate marketers together with potential endorsers.
“In the marketing world, there’s always a stigma when things like this happen. Fair or not, the damage is done,” Mr Tuchman says.
“You won’t see his sponsors pull out. But other potential sponsors might hesitate.”
Meanwhile, the world’s No 1 golfer has pulled out of the Chevron World Challenge, which starts on Thursday in Thousand Oaks, California “due to injuries sustained” in the accident.
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