Greg Norman, a former world No. 1 who has felt both the embrace of adulation and the cold slap of criticism from the golfing public, weighed in on the Tiger Woods affair on Thursday.
Speaking to the Golf Channel at the Shark Shootout in Naples, Fla., he says Woods is a public figure who was hoisted into an exalted position by millions of fans, and as such, must thus endure the scrutiny when things go sideways.
“I hope Tiger sorts these issues out,” Norman told the network Thursday. “Things like that should stay behind closed doors, but then again we are public figures. There are times when people feel like they can reach through the TV screen and say `I own you, I know you because I buy a product you represent.’ That’s a part of it. You have to accept that responsibility.”
On his website, Woods lashed out at those who have probed and devoured every nugget of fact, and probably a few morsels of fiction, relating to his predicament.
Norman was grilled, although not nearly to this extent, when he dumped his wife of 26 years for tennis great Chris Evert, paying more than $100 million to his ex. Now he and Evert are on the rocks. Norman hasn’t said much about the Evert split, but says he understand why the questions were posed.
In the age of modern media, no golfer has felt the double-edged sword of celebrity more than Norman. It's interesting that he understands the voyeuristic nature of the media-player relationship and how symbiotic it is. Norman grasps that bad news often comes with the good.
“Unfortunately, the media are the media,” Norman told the network. “They support you on the way up. And when you need them, we use you just as much as you use us. And when you step across the line, you’ve got to kind of take a little bit of the wrath of god, or whatever you want to call it.”
The impact of the Woods imbroglio is sweeping and still being measured. It has damaged the reputation of the PGA Tour and some have envisioned a possible economic fallout from sponsors jumping ship. Players have said privately that they feel their reputations have been tainted by association.
“He does represent the PGA Tour,” Norman told reporters. “He does represent golf in a lot of ways, so there will be an impact. I really can’t comment on that, but I’m sure there are people thinking about it, reacting about it, making assumptions.
“And what’s it going to be like when he comes out and plays again? Or is he going to come out and play again? There’s all these speculations out there and quite honestly, what is really the truth? Nobody is going to know until we really know.”
Backward as that sounds, he’s got a point.