MARANA, Ariz. - PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem took the blame Sunday for not alerting his players about why Tiger Woods chose to make his first public appearance during the Match Play Championship.
Players had to field several questions about Woods upon finishing their matches in the opening round Wednesday, when it was announced that Woods was to speak publicly Friday for the first time since the Nov. 27 car accident that revealed rampant affairs.
Most troubling to some players — Ernie Els in particular — was the perception that Woods was getting back at Accenture, the title sponsor at Match Play and the first company to drop Woods over the sex scandal.
Finchem, who allowed Woods to use the TPC Sawgrass clubhouse at PGA Tour headquarters for the nationally televised event, knew that Woods was on a break from therapy and was to return on Saturday.
“In hindsight, we should have pushed the thing along in a way to got the players briefed before they went into their Wednesday matches, some so they’re not coming out of a match and getting hit with all these Tiger questions,” Finchem said. “We just screwed up on that. That’s just a screw-up on my part.
“You can never communicate too much in this business, and when you don’t, you usually pay a price. And that was a good example.” Els
was among the most outspoken when he learned of Woods’ plans to speak.
“It’s selfish,” he told Golfweek magazine. “You can write that. I feel sorry for the sponsor. Mondays are a good day to make statements, not Friday. This takes a lot away from the golf tournament.” Finchem said he since has spoken to Els, who lost in the second round of the tournament.
“Once he understood the options available to us, and what we were looking at it ... I did say to him, ’The mistake here, given all the elements, was not getting you guys briefed.’ I take responsibility for that. That’s my job,” Finchem said.
Woods never said specifically what therapy he was receiving or where, although a photo that appeared to be Woods was taken last month outside an addiction clinic in Mississippi.
He said in his 13 1/2 minute statement Friday that he had been in therapy “receiving guidance for the issues I’m facing,” and that he was returning Saturday. Woods did not say how much longer he would be there.
Finchem repeated Sunday that Woods has not been suspended; there have been questions whether Woods’ infidelity and the publicity it generated would be considered conduct unbecoming a professional. Finchem said Woods was free to return whenever he wanted.
But the commissioner had no idea when that would be.
“On the competitive side, we all know he’s not going to tee it up until he feels like he can win the golf tournament,” Finchem said.