Commentary: Woods' press conference is too friendly

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Craig Heatley, Chairman of The Masters Media Committee, sits alongside Tiger Woods as he addresses members of the media.

AAs far as Tiger Woods’ is concerned, a lot of golf writers “are my friends, and will always be my friends,” and there was ample evidence of those bonds during the press conference that was carried live Monday.

Reporters generally don’t like to be considered “friends” by the people they cover, which makes it somewhat hard to kick them in the teeth from time to time.

Still, Woods’ faith in beat writers seemed reasonably justified. Unlike the vast majority of those drawn to his story, they seemed far more concerned with his putts than his putz.

Golf scribes clearly don’t work for TMZ, that’s for sure. Of the nearly 40 questions Woods fielded during a 35-minute press conference in advance of the Masters golf tournament, many were of the “Are you nervous?” and “Will you be able to keep your competitive edge?” variety. The most pointed lines of inquiry dealt with whether Woods had used performance-enhancing drugs or taken sleeping aids.

Journalists weren’t identified during the session, with Woods sitting in front of a green backdrop, flanked by a “media committee” flack for the Augusta tournament. Watching the sober give and take, it sort of made you wonder what President Obama was up to and what other newsworthy stuff we might actually be missing.

For his part, Woods answered economically, crisply and on occasion lawyerly, only bristling at a few moments. The worst of those exchanges came when he stated that he “did everything to the letter of the law” in dealing with the police after his car accident, which essentially says nothing and sort of screamed for a follow-up that never came.

Having previously made a public statement and conducted two short interviews with ESPN and the Golf Channel, Woods has gotten pretty good at apologizing for having sexual relations with all those women. Not surprisingly, there was a bit more of that, however indirectly, this time directed at fellow players on the PGA tour. He pleaded that other golfers be left alone to “focus on the Masters” and expressed regret “for what they’ve had to endure” because of his behavior.

Still, Woods also reiterated his complaint about the “constant harassment to my family” by some in the press and the demands of the 24-hour news cycle. Just not, mercifully, from his pals, you know, the golf writers in the room.

All told, we learned more about sportswriters than Woods from Monday’s event. In the Woodward and Bernstein department, it was a below-par performance, with Woods facing relatively few tough angles or hard lies. The golfer himself sought to stress that winning or losing isn’t really all that important, insisting, “It’s not about championships. It’s about how you live your life.”

But like much of the coverage and hand-wringing about Woods disappointing fans, that’s nonsense. Until his infidelity went public, Woods was famous for one thing: Kicking butt on a golf course. And based on the tone of Monday’s exchange, new victories will likely erase most ills, at least among the sporting class.

As for the snickering jokes and double entendres, alas, no amount of press conferences or titles will prevent those from living on forever.

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