Tiger Woods’ longtime friend and mentor on the PGA Tour, Mark O’Meara, said Wednesday that the world No. 1 is being predictably stubborn by not addressing his issues publicly in an attempt to put a months-long sex scandal behind him.
O’Meara, who lived for years on the same Orlando street as Woods and helped him learn the ropes of the professional game as a younger player, also said he hasn’t spoken to the world No. 1 in weeks.
Plenty of damage-control experts have taken Woods to task for diving for cover rather than addressing the issue head-on. O’Meara indicated that he felt similarly.
But he pointed out that Woods is notoriously hard-headed and seems to have decided to handle the scandal with outright defiance. Even three months after the initial tabloid report and infamous car crash, Woods has yet to say a word publicly about the matter, a few comments attributed to him on his Web site notwithstanding.
“I guess he has all these advisors,” O’Meara said Wednesday in a teleconference for the Toshiba Classic on the Champions Tour. “I’m not his advisor. I would have handled it differently myself, personally, but that’s who I am. Whether he’s handled it right or wrong, only time can decide that.
“Tiger is being Tiger. You guys have spent a lot of time with him and seen how he is. I don’t know how else to answer that.
“A lot of times, why I don’t say anything is, it wouldn’t do me any good to make a comment. I certainly don’t want to offend my friend, but if he asked me my personal opinion about something, I’m going to give it to him. That would obviously be between he and I, but I would have handled it differently. But he’s a different guy than Mark O’Meara.”
At one point, the two were practically inseparable and stood at Nos. 1-2 in the world ranking, living only seven houses apart at Isleworth Country Club. O’Meara, who divorced and remarried and now lives in Houston, said he hasn’t actually spoken with Woods since they played a practice round at the British Open last summer.
O’Meara said he was uncomfortable talking about Woods’ situation because he doesn’t know much more than anybody else, although he said he was disappointed in his old friend’s behavior. O’Meara also indicated that it’s unrealistic for Woods to expect privacy given his position in the sports stratosphere.
“I haven’t been very public with this whole issue on what’s happened,” O’Meara said. “I can’t completely talk about something that I don’t know, really, a lot about what’s going on. I felt I had to let things play out.
“I care very deeply about Tiger. I think everyone knows how very, very close our relationship has been. I care about Elin and their children and their family. I think Tiger, this is my personal opinion, he’s brought a lot to the table – we all know that – in the game of golf. This is a difficult issue he’s dealing with, obviously, and with Elin and the kids.
“I know he wants it to be private, but it’s difficult to be private when he’s a public figure. That’s part of what’s happened in our lives. Media is such a big influence. That helps make Tiger a lot of what he is.
“I realize what happened is not a good scenario. That’s disappointing, what’s happened, and as his friend, I would tell him that personally. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that I wouldn’t try to help my friend any way I could.
“Until I get asked, it’s difficult to give advice. I’ve tried to contact him a few times, let him know I’ve been thinking about him and his family. My phone is always on.”