Golf's golden boy in PR hell

Has any sportsman ever fallen from grace as quickly as Tiger Woods?

Has any sportsman ever fallen from grace as quickly as Tiger Woods? "Boring with a capital B", was a recent verdict from Sports Illustrated. Most of us who follow golf wouldn't dissent from that, even if we don't go quite as far as Rod Liddle. "The most relentlessly boring man in the entire history of the world's most boring game," said Liddle in The Sunday Times, "a man seemingly bereft of personality, hinterland, mischief, hidden depths you name it, Tiger Woods doesn't have it."

This is the same Tiger Woods whose "scorecard" The Sun produced last week. (Sample: "Hole One. The Rachel Uchitel, Par 34. Deceptively tough... Hole Six: The Cory Rist. Par 31. Lovely pin position but beware of trap. At the time there were only seven holes: A Sun "scorecard" now would list 13.) So it went on. On Saturday, the paper quoted a "notorious Hollywood madam" as telling a US website Tiger had "splashed out £25,000 a weekend partying with high-class hookers Michelle Braun said that she sometimes provided Woods with ten to 15 girls at a time".

The News of the World said that his wife would "dump him after Christmas" and that Rachel Uchitel had received "£1,350,000 hush money from Tiger not to talk to the media". Two days later the Daily Mail had a "weeping blonde model" claiming that she "ended her affair with Tiger after she woke up in the middle of the night to find him texting other mistresses".

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So, why? Why did a man making $100m a year in sponsorship money and sport's first dollar billionaire end up crashed into a fire hydrant and pursued by a furious wife? Why do overpaid celebrities take such insane risks?

"Shrinks will tell you that it is about a yearning to live life on the edge," says Liddle, but he thinks it's simpler than that. "They do it because they can and frankly, if we're being honest, because you can't." It's easier, in other words, to succumb to temptation than not to, and in the end "nobody will think any the worse of them for it", or, if they do, it won't be for long.

I wonder. Professional golfers often behave badly: they're athletic, rich and stay away from home for weeks at a time. An investigation by Tina Brown's website, The Daily Beast, uncovered "groupies, carousing and wild sex as a central element for many players" on the professional golf circuit. But when one of these "hounds", or "wild men", as they are known, confessed all in the first draft of his autobiography, he was told that if he published it as it was it would ruin him.

Two of Woods's sponsors, Gillette and AT&T, are already cooling their relationships with him and his old image is gone for ever. Jack Nicklaus thinks the scandal will soon die down, or so he says, but Alexander Chancellor in The Daily Telegraph quotes the New York PR guru Howard Rubenstein, who says he's beyond PR redemption. "He's in PR hell just now. There is not a PR man on earth who can restore his image."

Tabloid money let's tax Tony until he squeaks

"So, let's get this straight," says Jane Moore in The Sun. "A nurse/fireman/paramedic on, say, £25,000, who has slogged their guts out all year round to pay for a Christmas break, may well be held to ransom by a BA cabin crew member who earns anything up to £70,000 for pushing a trolley up and down an aisle, modelling a lifejacket and flogging duty free over the tannoy in an irritating, sing-song voice. To quote a mum-ism, some people don't know they're born."

Alistair Darling's Budget statement was the "weirdest" I've ever listened to, says Fraser Nelson in the News of the World. His delivery had "all the sincerity of a hostage reading a scripted statement". That's because the prime minister and the chancellor are said to be "fighting tooth-and-nail about the future of UK plc". Darling wanted to jack up VAT to 20% because he fears we're in for a second crisis and wanted to do his best to avoid it. But Brown rejected his plan.

Darling also wanted to "axe" an extension of the expensive identity card system but was over-ruled. He is trying to end Brown's addiction to spending, fearing there could be a "second crash" and that Britain could go "pear-shaped" like Dubai. "According to the debt markets, Britain is now judged more likely to go bust than McDonald's. Or Gap. Or Vodafone." But Brown and his "Tory-hating apparatchiks" are worrying only about the election.

"How about a windfall tax on Tony Blair?" asks Tony Parsons in the Daily Mirror. He's just "raked in" £90k for a 20-minute speech in Azerbaijan. He's amassed a £15m fortune since leaving Downing Street by "conning" us into an unnecessary war. He and his missus are living in luxury because "Tony whored our armed forces to America. His crimes far exceed anything done by a bunch of greedy bankers. Blair's got away with murder and got rich. We should tax him until he squeaks for mercy."