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SportsColumnistsNeil Best

Tiger's message? It's time to tee it up

Tiger Woods displayed

Tiger Woods displayed "a vulnerability" in his interviews Sunday, according to public relations consultant Rick Cerrone. (Mar. 21, 2010) Photo Credit: AP/Golf Channel

It's never simple when it comes to Tiger Woods' media strategy, burnished as it is by assorted advisers and shaped in the end by Woods' own desire to maintain control, even now.

So it's difficult to say for sure what his goals were for Sunday's speed dates with ESPN's Tom Rinaldi and the Golf Channel's Kelly Tilghman.

But as annoying as the grounds rules were - five-minute time limit, embargo until 7:30 p.m., generic veranda setting - the dual interviews did serve what presumably was part of Woods' mission:

To help pave his path to the Masters, where he will encounter golf reporters from around the world, by preemptively giving us just enough to sate our appetites.

Now that we have heard him read a statement in February and answer questions in March, many of us are ready to see him next express himself on a golf course in April.

Rick Cerrone, a public relations consultant and former director of media relations for the Yankees, was harshly critical of Woods' public statement of Feb. 19, but he praised his performance Sunday.

"I saw a vulnerability in him; I did not see a guy completely in control,'' Cerrone said.

The unspoken message, Cerrone said, was "Now it's time to play golf . . . I really believe that's what he's set up to do now. He does not owe us an Oprah interview.''

Tilghman and Rinaldi did what they could within the time constraint, one so meager that CBS declined to participate.

Rinaldi elicited Woods' admission that he had been living a lie and also asked the day's boldest question: "Why did you get married?''

Tilghman, a friend of Woods', was less blunt but still covered plenty of ground; she also first reported the departure of former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer from Woods' advice squad.

Sure, much of what Tiger has said seems calculated and/or straight from rehab talking points.

But thrice now he has beaten himself up on national TV while making it clear there are some lines of questioning he will not be led down.

What else is there? It's time to shut up and play golf.

ESPNU on Cablevision

ESPNU will be available on Cablevision for the first time later this week.

A spokesman for Cablevision said it had nothing to announce, but two people familiar with the plan said the college sports channel is on its way, likely to iO Channel 144.

The addition of ESPNU presumably is part of the carriage agreement between Cablevision and Disney that returned Channel 7 to Cablevision homes after Disney pulled it for nearly 21 hours March 7.

The Dolan family owns a controlling interest in Knicks and Rangers owner MSG and Cablevision. Cablevision owns Newsday.


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