Will Tiger's Speech Help His Image – or Further Hurt It?
Behavior experts and golf pros assess Friday's remarks by Woods
He described himself as “reckless and irresponsible,” even “foolish” and “selfish” – and he blamed no one but himself – but did it work?
Out to start repairing his good-guy image, a somber Tiger Woods apologized Friday, saying, “For all I have done, I am so sorry.”
“I thought it was a very sincere apology. I can hear in his voice that he truly is in recovery,” Ava Profota, a licensed clinical social worker who specializes in love and sex addiction at Houston’s Memorial Herman Prevention and Recovery Center, tells PEOPLE. “He was what we call transparent. He didn’t hold anything back. He admitted his shame and his embarrassment.”
“Watching his body language … when he said, ‘I am truly sorry,’ you could see he was swallowing at the time. He had a big lump in his throat. He was just about to cry,” says Profota. “One of the things he mentioned is that your apology or amends will not be in words, it will be in behavior. That tells me he understands the concept.”
Former golfer Andy North, speaking on ESPN, shares the same sentiment – up to a point.
He says, “The fact that he actually mentioned the words he felt ‘entitled and irresponsible, things are out of control,’ and I think those are powerful words to say. But at the same time these are things we expected. He didn’t tell us much more but the fact that he is standing in front of a camera and letting people understand that he is truly sorry, at least it gives him a starting point to move on.”
One of Woods‘s sponsors, which had distanced itself from him in the wake of the scandal, stepped back into the ring after Friday’s speech. CNN reports that Nike issued a statement saying that after the athlete made his position clear the company fully supports Woods and his family. “We look forward to him returning to golf,” says Nike.
As Seen in Sweden
The Swedish newspaper Expressen (Woods’s wife Elin is from Sweden) quoted rhetoric expert Katti Sandberg as observing that Woods’s 14-minute speech “was very, very well directed. Then I think it is a bit odd that he was shot from behind at the end, one would have liked to see his tears, if there was any.”
As for his physical appearance, “He wore a light blue shirt and black jacket with huge broad shoulders to look strong and healthy,” says Sandberg. “Hugging his mother was not a great idea. That was weird, as well as blaming the press. He mentioned [his wife] Elin that many times to put her on pedestal.”
PHOTOS: Can Love Survive Scandal?As for the absent Elin from the speech headquarters – she was reported to be in Orlando – “I thought that was indicative of his mouth and his feet matching,” says Profota. “He said, I don’t want my family in the spotlight – and he didn’t have her there. So he’s trying to avoid having them in the spotlight. And he followed through with his words.”
“That’s another really positive sign,” Profota says, “that what he says he’s going to do and what his behavior is is matching.” Conversely, the presence of his mother “was a calculated risk on his part,” says Profota. “I don’t think people are going to be as much after his mom in the media as his children and his wife. I think that was a little safer.”
The Control Issue
Overall, Midwin Charles, legal counselor on Tru, gave Woods an “A for effort” by standing before the public, but speaking on CNN after the golfer’s speech, she said she found him naïve to believe he should criticize the media for prying into his life.
“If you engage in such behavior [as Woods did] and are a public figure,” she said, “you can’t believe the cameras are just going to go away.”
Golf writer Jim Gorant also jabbed at Woods’s attempt to control the media – and everything else in his life, including his wife.
” ‘I was unfaithful, I had affairs, I cheated’ those are textbook words from what he has to say in therapy as part of his daily sessions,” says a former patient of Pine Grove in Hattiesburg, Miss., a comprehensive treatment center. “The counselors lower you to gut honesty, get you in touch with your own spirituality, force you to admit all of your wrongdoings. They make you feel like the lowest thing on earth before they help you build yourself back up.”
“At Tiger’s level, he hit rock bottom, and he has agreed to do anything he is told to get through this,” the former patient tells PEOPLE. “If he meant what he said in the press conference, he has a good chance of returning to public life and even helping others, like other elite athletes. If he was coached to say this to keep his sponsors and re-enter golf, it won’t last a week. It is all about looking at yourself with total honesty.”
“Is he sincere? I don’t know. Only time and new life experiences will tell.”
• With reporting by ANDREAS BASH, PAUL CHI, WENDY GROSSMAN, STEVE HELLING and LINDA MARX