SBD/Issue 124/Leagues & Governing Bodies

Tiger Reportedly Retains Fleischer To Prepare For Bay Hill Return

Woods Gearing Up For Return To
PGA Tour At Arnold Palmer Invitational?

Tiger Woods has retained the services of Ari Fleischer to help plan a "strategy for his return to golf" at the PGA Tour Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill later this month, according to two golf sources cited by Mark Cannizzaro of the N.Y. POST. The sources indicated that Fleischer, who earlier this year helped Mark McGwire plan his public admission to steroid use, has been "huddling with Woods." One source said, "They were in his living room this week going over a strategy for how to handle Bay Hill in two weeks." Cannizzaro reports Arnold Palmer himself reportedly has "told some close confidants that Woods is definitely playing Bay Hill," which starts on March 25, and tournament officials are "preparing for a larger-than-usual media crush." Knowing he "eventually has to stand before everyone publicly and take questions ... is why Woods sought out the advice" of Fleischer, the former White House Press Secretary who in '08 formed Ari Fleischer Sports Communications. The firm is a joint venture with IMG, Woods' longtime agency. Meanwhile, golfer Mark O'Meara, Woods' longtime friend and neighbor, yesterday said he "wouldn't be surprised" to see Woods return at the Tavistock Cup, an event played at his home course of Isleworth on March 22-23. O'Meara believes the two-day exhibition matches might be a "nice way" for Woods to "ease back into the whole situation" (N.Y. POST, 3/11). Golf World's John Hawkins said, "Tavistock, Bay Hill and Masters offer isolation, a home game: 15 minutes from his door and the most tranquil and respectful galleries in golf at a major championship. He is not going to find a better stretch to come back at" ("19th Hole," Golf Channel, 3/10). ESPN.com's Bob Harig: "We all know he's going to come back at some point, and Bay Hill has long, long made a lot of sense." Harig notes it is "hard to believe now that he wouldn't be" at The Masters ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 3/11).

PREPARE FOR THE ONSLAUGHT: The AP's Doug Ferguson reported the PGA Tour in recent weeks "began checking with tournaments to make sure they were prepared to handle the hype" about Woods' return to golf. The Tour even is checking with tournaments Woods "has never played." Officials from events have been in "touch with PGA Tour officials about who is applying for media credentials." Ferguson noted "before Woods was exposed for cheating on his wife, there had been increasing speculation that he was considering the Transitions Championship one of these years." While this year "doesn't appear to be one of them" -- Woods needs to commit to playing the event by Friday -- Tournament Dir Gerald Goodman said that Tour officials "contacted him last week" in preparation of next week's tourney. Goodman: "They described it as talking to all tournaments. They gave no indication that they knew anything, they were just wanting to be thorough" (AP, 3/10). PGA Tour Radio's Brian Katrek said, "It doesn't matter where he comes back, it's going to be the biggest story in golf, just like his announcement at Ponte Vedra was the biggest story in golf. ... Wherever he goes, reporters will follow. Biggest story of the year no matter where he comes back" ("19th Hole," Golf Channel, 3/10).

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