In the room with a Tiger
He walked with the same confidence those of us who cover golf have come to recognize as he entered the carefully designed room, with presidential blue draping covering most of two walls, illuminated by a very professional TV lighting setup. I guess presidential should be emphasized, the person who did the setup did the same things for President George W. Bush.
I was covering a meeting of financial analysts and CEOs in Boca Raton when the emails and texts started fluttering in about the Tiger statement. Shortly afterward, it was determined that Reuters had been invited to attend and that I had been given the nod to shoot it.
At that time, only three agencies had been invited (AP, Bloomberg and Reuters) and one pool video camera.
It turned out a little differently, with Getty joining the group. The still photographic participants, who met early on Friday, included Eric Gay with Associated Press, Sam Greenwood of Getty Images, Jacksonville photographer Lori Moffett representing Bloomberg and me for Reuters. We gathered at the Marriott Sawgrass Convention Center, located about a mile from the TPC Sawgrass clubhouse, where the event was held. We were ‘registered’ by PGA employees, our drivers licenses checked, and we received special credentials labeled ‘pool media’.
It had the feel of a Secret Service wrangling. Where the pool participants are identified, and then placed in a ‘holding room’ prior to a specifically timed and coordinated departure. Reporters from AP, Reuters and several other organizations joined us. The only thing missing was the checking of our gear and the presence of a four-footed friend.
At the appointed time, our hosts, immaculately dressed and wearing lapel pins with the TW logo, ushered us downstairs and past the hundreds of other press (who didn’t seem to have an invitation) and dozens of live trucks at the hotel to a waiting van. The ride was familiar to me, having covered The Players Championship at Sawgrass many times.
We arrived at the clubhouse and climbed several flights of stairs before being directed into the next holding room, the media workroom. The wireless signal was very low at first, but improved very quickly after the IT support staff showed up. Our friend from the White House kindly drew us a schematic of how things would take place. We set up our laptops and got ready for the quick trip down the hall. It was not clear whether the same Internet signal would exist in the event room.
At the appointed time, our hosts assembled us and we proceeded down a short hallway and through two sets of doors into what could be described as a small ballroom. There were three rows of chairs, all occupied by people sitting very still who were mostly silent.
As we walked into the room, a look at the audience front row revealed Tiger’s mother, Kultida Woods. Further down was Tim Finchem, PGA Tour Commissioner, and Tiger’s college friend, PGA golfer Notah Begay. It was remarkably quiet in the room, the most notable sound coming from the television camera operators speaking with their director. Our group took particular interest in Tiger’s mother, who reacted to the camera sounds with an occasional annoyed look. We were given freedom to move in the back of the room and on the side with most of the TV lights on it. We waited for 11 a.m. surrounded by silence.
A moment before 11, I heard the rotors of a helicopter above the building and wondered what they could possibly hope to film from there, except the dramatic scene-setter.
Appearing quickly from behind the presidential blue curtain, Tiger Woods was again seen in public. Walking to the podium with his remarks folded in his hand, the Tiger we have seen so much of on the golf course began to speak.
Because of the uncertainty of the length of his remarks, it was important to work quickly on the basic pictures, the wide ones, the tight ones, while watching for a definitive moment.
I was passing behind the head-on TV camera when a fried circuit board took out the camera. For a minute, I wasn’t able to move because of the frenzy of the TV staff on both sides of me to replace the camera, and I was caught in the middle of their backup gear. Fortunately, Tiger continued to speak.
At the conclusion of his remarks, he walked towards his mother and embraced her. He greeted several guests, shook hands with Commissioner Finchem, hugged his college friend, and walked back into the blue curtains. Was it a big production? Yes. Was there anger in his voice when he chastised some media for following his family? Yes. Was Tiger sincere in his apology? Time will tell.
We were escorted back to the media room, where I had two laptops set up with our Paneikon remote editing software. I put a disk in each machine and hit the go buttons. That was pretty much all I had to do, from there it was remote edited by Gary Hershorn and others from Vancouver.