A test for more than just Tiger
Monday is going to be a big day for Tiger Woods as he mounts a podium at Augusta National to answer questions. Presumably, it will be an extraordinary challenge, and an opportunity for Woods to come off as a square shooter and a person who can show grace under fire.
Presumably. See, Monday's much-anticipated press conference is also a test of the world sporting press, particularly of the willingness of the North American media to be controlled by the use of privileges and credentials.
No one seems certain, you see, exactly what kind of questions will be permitted to be asked of Woods on Monday. Golf only? None relating to his personal life? What about queries relating to performance-enhancing drugs? Are the events of that strange night when he backed out of his driveway and crashed into a tree fair game?
Two things seem clear. Woods will try to control the process, just as he tried several weeks ago during his awkward television mea culpa, one that was partially boycotted by the North American golf media because Woods tried to invite only a select - and acceptable - few. His recent TV "interviews" have shown a similar intent to make sure he isn't put in a situation beyond his control.
Augusta National, meanwhile, will also try to manage this press conference. These are people who don't allow women in their club and insist that those who attend The Masters as paying customers are referred to as "patrons," not "fans." Augusta's determination to allow TV to show only what it wants TV to show is legendary, and one supposes the good old boys who run the place might not necessarily think shining the light of scrutiny on private lives is so good for the game, their course, or them.
But they wield enormous power over the media. This isn't like a season's pass to Nashville Predators games. A press pass to the Masters is a very meaningful document, one that folks in the media can lord over their peers and colleagues, one not easily surrendered. It's a status symbol.
So if there are ground rules laid down on Monday as to what can and can't be asked of Woods, will the media go along, or will it fight back? Surely, there will be those who will realize that holding a press credential to an event where a free and open press is discouraged makes that a fairly useless credential. On the other hand, holding a Masters press pass comes with perks, like an opportunity once in a while to play the course.
Who's going to give that up to play hero? What editor, with many media outlets in North America in dire straits, will counsel their reporter or columnist to damn the torpedos and insist on asking unwelcome questions if it means possibly becoming as unwelcome at Augusta as female members?
This will be fascinating to watch. Hopefully, Woods will just do what he should have done some time ago, sit down and try to patiently answer whatever questions are lobbed his way. He can answer "No comment." He can lecture the media on his private life and say its none of its concerns. He can lie and obfuscate, if he thinks it's worth the risk.
Showing up is his challenge. The media's, too.