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Why Woods says it's not a press conference

1:56 PM, Feb 19, 2010   |    comments
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Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida - Tiger Woods says it's not a press conference that will start at 11 a.m. - but the media is out in full force.

Reporters gathering in this Jacksonville suburb to cover Tiger Woods' announcement are being generally careful to avoid calling it a press conference.

There are two main reasons for that choice of words.

One, there will be nearly no "press" at the event itself.

And two, there will likely be no "conferring." Tiger Woods is not expected to take questions.

Eager reporters are roped off into a bustling base camp at a hotel a mile away from the site of Woods' statement.

The world's golf fans will lean toward their TVs to take in Tiger Woods' carefully planned statement  that starts at 11 a.m..

The world's journalists will do the same.

Only a single camera and three wire service reporters will be inside the lavish clubhouse at the exclusive TPC Sawgrass golf course where the announcement will take place.

Three more reporters -- golf writers -- had been permitted inside.

But they boycotted the event when it was clear they wouldn't be allowed to ask questions, and so many other reporters would be excluded.

The remaining reporters here will watch the announcement inside the hotel's largest ballroom.

Why make this statement here, outside Jacksonville?

Also just down the road from the hotel is the headquarters of the PGA Tour. Tiger Woods asked the tour to give him a venue for the announcement and help him handle the logistics for the event.

The reason Woods asked for that logistics help is becoming clear as the morning passes.

About two dozen satellite trucks have filled much of one of the hotel's parking lots, and many of them hold reporters hoping to do the two things Woods' people clearly don't want: ask him questions and snap his picture.

Organizers set out to make sure that single camera view from inside the clubhouse is the only view we'll get of Tiger Woods.

Any fan or pro photographer trying for a closer peek faces an army of guards. Sheriff's deputies are cruising near the entrances to the somewhat secluded golf course, along with private security workers.

The PGA Tour says security at this golf course is as tight as when the course hosts its annual golf tournament, THE PLAYERS Championship -- an event that brings in 200,000 people.

Sources say  Tiger Woods will return to therapy after he ends a three-month silence and speaks about his infidelity and his future plans.

Golf's biggest star on Friday will address the shocking and sordid sex scandal that has consumed his life since late November then will return to the clinic where he has been undergoing therapy, according to a letter from PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem 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 the major networks.

"As we understand it, Tiger's therapy called for a week's break at this time during which he has spent a few days with his children and then will make his statement before returning," Finchem said in the letter Thursday. "Accordingly, there was very little flexibility in the date for the announcement."

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

Golf's biggest star is to make his first public appearance since he ran his SUV over a fire hydrant and into a tree outside his Florida home on Nov. 27 and sent him into hiding.

The setting for his return is decidedly friendly. It may be hard to remember the planet is watching.

Woods will speak to a small group of "friends, colleagues and close associates" in the Sunset Room on the second floor of the TPC Sawgrass, home of the PGA Tour. Just one video camera will broadcast the event and there will be no questions.

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

Ernie Els was among players who were upset to learn that Woods had chosen the week of a World Golf Championship for a public appearance that was sure to take attention away from the tournament. "It's selfish," Els told Golfweek magazine.

Finchem told reporters in Marana, Ariz., earlier this week that he didn't think Woods' appearance would undermine Accenture, and that Woods' handlers "have their own reasons for their schedule."

In the letter, he said the tour discussed the timing with Accenture and "they understand that the PGA Tour was not involved in determining the timing of the statement." Finchem also noted that Woods' comments would be over well before television coverage of the third round from Dove Mountain.

The PGA Tour made available its sprawling, Mediterranean-styled clubhouse for the announcement, and was helping set up adjacent ballrooms at the nearby Sawgrass Marriott for media, where they can watch Woods on closed-circuit TV. Finchem said in the letter that Woods' management asked for the facilities, and "we agreed as we would for any member of the PGA Tour."

No other PGA Tour player could command this kind of attention, though.

Woods is one of the most recognized athletes in the world. Television ratings double when he is in contention, which has happened a lot on his way to winning 71 times on the PGA Tour and 14 majors, four short of the record held by Jack Nicklaus.

No other athlete had such a spectacular fall. Accenture and AT&T have ended their endorsement contracts with him, and Woods has become the butt of jokes on everything from late shows to Disney performances.

In the hours leading up to his appearance, it already was shaping up as a major event.

Along with familiar faces, Woods' management team invited limited media.

"This is not a press conference," Mark Steinberg, Woods' agent, said on Wednesday.

Three wire services -- the AP, Reuters and Bloomberg -- were invited. The Golf Writers Association of America was offered a pool of three reporters, negotiated for six reporters, then its board of directors voted overwhelmingly not to participate.

"I cannot stress how strongly our board felt that this should be open to all media and also for the opportunity to question Woods," said Vartan Kupelian, president of the 950-member group. "The position, simply put, is all or none. This is a major story of international scope. To limit the ability of journalists to attend, listen, see and question Woods goes against the grain of everything we believe."

The public hasn't had a clean look at Woods' face since photos Wednesday of him jogging in his neighborhood outside Orlando.

More pool photos were released on Thursday showing him hitting balls on the practice range; Woods never allowed his picture taken on the range last year when returning from knee surgery.

Far more compelling, however, will be the sound of his voice. Woods has not been heard in the 78 days since a magazine released a voicemail he allegedly left one of the women to whom he has been romantically linked, warning that Woods' wife might be calling.

Instead of going on "Oprah" or another national television show to break the ice, Woods essentially will be speaking to the lone camera allowed in the room. It will be televised via satellite.

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