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Thursday, February 18, 2010
Els critical of Woods' timing

ESPN.com news services

The timing of Tiger Woods' first appearance since his car accident and subsequent admission of marital infidelity -- on Friday in Florida, while the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship is in full swing in Arizona -- does not impress one of the game's best-known players.

"It's selfish," former U.S. Open and British Open champion Ernie Els told Golfweek magazine. "You can write that. I feel sorry for the sponsor. Mondays are a good day to make statements, not Friday. This takes a lot away from the golf tournament."

Woods will speak publicly at 11 a.m. ET Friday for the first time since his bizarre Thanksgiving night car accident, beginning what his agent called "the process of making amends" for the sex scandal that sent him into hiding for three months. Since the accident, Woods' only statements have come via his Web site.

Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods, seen jogging near his home on Wednesday, will make his first public appearance in three months on Friday.

The timing is peculiar at best. Woods' appearance will take place during the third round of the Arizona tournament, sure to steal attention away from the first big event of the year. The tournament is sponsored by Accenture -- coincidentally, the first sponsor to drop Woods when the scandal broke.

Woods' agent, Mark Steinberg, said the appearance during the tournament was "a matter of timing." Asked if it could have waited until Monday, he said, "No."

"There is a very good reason [to do it Friday] ... and not do it next week," Steinberg said, according to Golfweek.

Steinberg said there was no intention to upstage Accenture's sponsorship of the Match Play tournament, according to Golfweek. He said he alerted a company executive of Woods' plans, and made sure his statement would be made "well outside the tournament's TV window."

An Accenture spokesman confirmed to ESPN.com that Steinberg gave the company a heads-up.

"That story will happen, it will get covered and then we'll move on to the Match Play, but they deliberately tried not to overlap with what we are doing," said Fred Hawrysh, Accenture's director of corporate communications

After a six-year sponsorship contract with Woods, Accenture became the first company to cut ties with him in December. Even so, Hawrysh maintained that it may actually be beneficial to have Woods release his statement this week.

"I don't think he's taking away from the tournament; I honestly don't feel that," he said. "We've had great coverage overnight of the first day of it and somehow those two news events seem to be able to coexist and I think that's going to be able to continue to happen.

"If anything, it's going to pique people's interest in golf again. It gets people focused on golf and this is our golf weekend, so there really could be a silver lining in all of this."

Live Coverage of Tiger's Statement

ESPN will carry live coverage of Tiger Woods from the TPC Sawgrass clubhouse at 11 a.m. ET Friday on "SportsCenter," ESPNEWS, "First Take" (on ESPN2), ESPN Radio and ESPN Mobile. For ESPN.com live streaming, click here.

"He's got to come out at some point," Irish golfer Rory McIlroy said. "I suppose he might want to get something back against the sponsor that dropped him. No, I don't know. It just went on for so long. I'm sick of hearing about it. And I'm just looking forward to when he's getting back on the golf course."

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said he did not think Woods' appearance would undermine the World Golf Championship event.

"We have tournaments every week," Finchem said. "I think it's going to be a story in and of itself. A lot of people are going to be watching golf this week to see what the world of golf says about it, my guess is. So that will be a good thing."

A number of golfers have publicly advised Woods to come forward before he resumes playing on tour.

"Tiger has to take ownership of what he has done. He must get his personal life in order. I think that's what he's trying to do. And when he comes back he has to show some humility to the public," Tom Watson said before the Dubai Desert Classic earlier this month.

"I would come out and I would do an interview with somebody and say, 'You know what? I screwed up. And I admit it. I am going to try to change. I am trying to change. I want my wife and family back,' " Watson said.

Geoff Ogilvy, speaking before the Abu Dhabi Championship last month, said Woods should appear in public before returning to the tour out of respect for his fellow golfers.

"It would be nice if he came out away from a golf tournament. When he does come back to golf it would still be a bit crazy but that tabloid edge might be gone," Ogilvy said.

Woods will appear Friday in the clubhouse at the TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., home of the PGA Tour. The event is being limited to a small number of wire service and golf reporters, and only one television camera will be in the room, which will provide live coverage via satellite. Woods will not be taking questions.

Three networks -- ABC, CBS and NBC -- will carry the statement live. The Golf Channel will start coverage 30 minutes before Woods is scheduled to speak.

Steinberg described the gathering as a "small group of friends, colleagues and close associates" who will listen to Woods apologize as he talks about the past and what he plans to do next.

"He also let down his fans. He wants to begin the process of making amends and that's what he's going to discuss," Steinberg said in an e-mail.

At about the time of Woods' Nov. 27 car accident, a National Enquirer story alleged the world's No. 1 golfer had been seeing a New York nightclub hostess. Following the crash, a stream of women came forward to claim they had romantic relationships with him. One woman provided Us Weekly magazine with a voice mail she said Woods left her three days before the crash, asking her to take his number off her phone.

Woods admitted to "infidelity" in a statement on his Web site in mid-December and has been on an indefinite break from golf ever since.

A British bookmaker has set odds at 4-to-7 that Woods' wife, Elin, will be with him. The bookmaker, William Hill, didn't stop there, however. It offers 8-to-1 odds that Woods will announce he is getting a divorce; 12-to-1 odds that his wife is pregnant; and 100-to-1 odds that he is retiring.

Conversation raged online, as many took glee in speculating on what Woods will say Friday.

The golfer was the hottest topic on Google Trends. On Twitter, Tiger Woods was a dominant topic. Among the most popular threads were tweets with the tag "tigershouldsay."

Suggestions were predominantly sarcastic, such as: "At least I didn't use steroids."

ESPN.com golf writer Jason Sobel and The Associated Press contributed to this report.