Trouble in the Tiger Den: What Can Woods Do to Save Reputation?
Tiger Woods Remains Silent as Women Allege Affairs, Wife Mulls Options
By RUSSELL GOLDMAN
Dec. 9, 2009
With a 9,000-square-foot Florida home, Tiger Woods and his wife have ample room to avoid talking to each other, but Woods' failure quickly to address the public continues to hurt his reputation as tabloids continue to write about alleged extramarital affairs, public relations experts say.
"He is beyond PR redemption. He is in public relations hell right now. There is not a PR man on Earth who can restore his image," said public relations maven Howard Rubenstein.
Holed up for nearly two weeks, Woods has not once emerged from his home into public view. He has addressed the public only through his Web site, issuing a vague apology days after the bizarre Nov. 27 car accident that raised questions about a fight with his wife and spurred nearly a dozen allegations of marital infidelity.
"Last week he had a big PR problem. I think it's really changed this week," Howard Bragman, CEO of Fifteen Minutes Public Relations, told "Good Morning America" today. "Now my gut is that he's got a life problem. There are some major issues he has to confront."
As the tabloids continue to add names to Woods' scorecard of alleged sex partners, each further tarnishing the golfer's once-squeaky-clean image, there is little the world's leading golfer can do to staunch the bleeding, Rubenstein said.
"He's hemorrhaging; even a transfusion won't help. He can never re-establish that perfect image of a happily married family man. Never," said Rubenstein. The best he can hope for is to re-establish his image as a golfing champion. If he wins consistently and doesn't sink to 4 or 5, he'll be applauded again – but just for golf. There will still be plenty of snickering behind his back."
But even a return to the golf course could turn into a public nightmare for the man many competitors once feared.
"The aura of invincibility that Tiger had -- how does he ever get that back?" ABC News sports consultant Christine Brennan told "Good Morning America" this morning. "Now he's a laughingstock."
Before the scandal, Brennan said, Woods' only had to contend with screaming fans and questions from sports reporters. Now, she said, he's going to be tailed as he enters and leaves the courses and as he simply lives his life.
"I think this fall from grace is so remarkable," she said. "It's not just about sports."
But heading back to work could be a good thing for both Woods and his fans.
"I think just seeing him on the golf course again will be soothing for many people and it will be for him as well," Brennan said.
Few confirmable details have leaked from the couple's multimillion-dollar home in an exclusive community in Widermere, Fla. In recent days, his wife, Elin Nordegren, has reportedly moved out of the home, bought a $2 million mansion on a secluded Swedish island, and -- according to the Chicago Sun Times -- is negotiating a "hefty seven-figure amount" to remain married.
It is believed Nordegren was still living at the home with Woods when, early Tuesday morning, a woman called 911 from the couple's home to report her mother had collapsed, and request an ambulance.
Public relations expert Bragman, who once suggested that Woods get out in front of the tabloids and speak publicly, said the golfer's troubles have become so numerous that it might be prudent for him to hide out for a few months and possibly seek rehab if tabloid reports of sex or prescription drug addiction are true.
"You don't clear the road until the avalanche is done and this avalanche is not over yet," he said.
Money, Public Image Could Be Keeping Woods' Marriage Afloat
The Orange County Sheriff's office would not identify the caller from Tuesday's 911 call, citing privacy laws. There is no mention of Woods on the call.
A child can be heard screaming in the background on the recording of the 911 tape. Woods and Nordegren have two children together; their daughter, Sam, is 2 and their son, Charlie, is 10 months old.
Nordegren's mother, Barbro Holmberg, 57, was released from Health Central Hospital in Ocoee at around 4 p.m. Tuesday, 11 hours after paramedics took her to the hospital with a stomach ailment.
Nordegren's twin sister, Josefin Nordegren, is also rumored to be visiting the U.S. and staying at the home, which according to public records, has nine bathrooms and eight bedrooms.
As the list of women with whom Woods is accused of having affairs continues to grow, some observers have speculated why Nordegren continues to remain with her husband and what Woods can do to restore his reputation.
To high-powered divorce attorney Raoul Felder, Nordegren's reasons for staying with Woods are simple: "Money," he said.
"That's what it's all about, $75 to $80 million is what Elin stands to get now. Before all this, according to the prenup [speculation], it was a $20 million deal at the end of 10 years," he said.
Rubenstein, on the other hand, recommended the couple split up.
"He ought to legally separate from his wife," he said. "He ought to come to an understanding with her, offer a very significant financial payment to take care of her and the kids, and then split."
"From a PR perspective, and for their own psychology, the best thing to do is separate sooner rather than later. Who knows how many more women are going to emerge? This could continue for a long time," said Rubenstein.
"I have let my family down and I regret those transgressions with all of my heart," said Woods in a statement published on his Web site last week. "I have not been true to my values and the behavior my family deserves.
"I am not without faults and I am far short of perfect," said Woods. "I am dealing with my behavior and personal failings behind closed doors with my family. Those feelings should be shared by us alone."