Tiger Goes Off-Course at Press Conference

Tiger Woods is on the comeback trail, healthy for 2012 after recovering from a nagging knee injury. But his performance on the golf course so far this year has been inconsistent. The same could be said for his recent performance off the course, particularly as it relates to the media. Woods displayed some testiness at a press conference held Feb. 29 before the start of the Honda Classic, and while it wouldn't have been headline news for almost any other athlete, for Woods the incident did some damage to his already battered public image.

Hank Haney, Woods' former swing coach, has written a soon-to-be-published book about his interactions with the golfer called The Big Miss (the title alone would likely make a Tiger pounce). In the book, Haney details Woods’ fascination with the military and, especially, special forces, of which his late father, Earl, was a member. Haney goes so far as to say that Woods was thinking about chucking golf at the zenith of his career and becoming a Navy SEAL.

This side of Woods has been written about before, and Woods has been cordial in answering questions about it. On Feb. 29, however, when Golfweek writer Alex Miceli asked Woods if he had considered becoming a Navy SEAL, Woods replied, “I've already talked about everything in the book. I've already commented on everything, Alex.'' Then more testiness ensued, with Woods finally saying tersely, “You’re a beauty, you know that?” to Miceli. It’s safe to say Woods wasn’t thinking about the literal meaning of “beauty” when referring to the writer—and sarcasm is not the best way to rebuild a personal brand.

While the press has been all over the confrontation since then, for a Woods blow-up—on a scale of 1-5—this was perhaps just a 2.5. It’s clear that just the mention of Haney and his book makes Woods seethe. Yet Woods might have handled the situation better by saying: “Because of my dad being in the military, I have been interested in the military since I was young, and I visit troops at bases around the country as much as I can.”

Or, “Alex, I have always been interested in the SEALs—as a lot of people have—but as you can see, I’m still playing golf.” Instead of locking into his indignation, Woods could have bridged to a more pleasant topic.

Woods quit working with swing coach Haney in 2010. Since then, he's worked with Sean Foley to polish up his game. When it comes to press conferences, Woods, like many people in prominent roles, could use some polishing in the media training department.

Follow Scott Van Camp: @svancamp01

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About Scott Van Camp

Scott Van Camp is editor of PR News, an executive-level, reader-supported publication that helps enhance the business impact of PR. Scott has a rich background in both journalism and PR/marketing. He has more than 15 years of experience as a writer/editor at various consumer and trade publications. Scott was with VNU Business Publications for five years, including stints as managing editor at IQ News and Technology Marketing magazines and senior editor at Brandweek. In the PR/marketing sphere, he has served as corporate communications manager at MarketBridge, a marketing and sales consultancy, and as editorial director for the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council. While at the Council, Scott led several high-profile marketing research projects. He has also operated his own communications and media consulting firm, SVC Communications.

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