Questions Abound About Tiger's Golf Hiatus

This is an Aug. 15, 2006, file photo showing Tiger Woods taking a drink of Gatorade on the driving range after his practice round for the 88th PGA Championship, in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi, File)
AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi
The indefinite leave Tiger Woods is taking from golf is fraught with uncertainty, observers say.

But one notes there are some certainties - that it will be an "unmitigated disaster" for pro golf, and that the days of marketing Woods as the All-American Boy are over.

The move by the scandal-scarred Woods is a last-ditch effort to save the marriage of the world's top golfer and best-known and highest-paid athlete. Will it work? And what could it mean for his career?

Woods announced his decision two weeks after crashing his SUV into a tree outside his Florida home, setting off a striking spiral of events, with one woman after another coming forward to claim she'd had a sexual relationship with him. Before that, Woods rarely made news off the golf course.

"I think it's the first good move that he's made since Thanksgiving night," sportswriter Ian O'Connor told "Early Show Saturday Edition" co-anchor Erica Hill. "I think, clearly, he needs to heal his family and his relationship with his wife, and that's more important (than his career). It's hard to criticize a guy for putting his work aside, as important as it is to Tiger Woods to try to fix his family."

Additional Coverage of the Tiger Woods Scandal:

Tiger Woods Taking Leave from Golf
Alleged Mistresses Have Troubled Pasts
Tiger Texts Show Weakness for Woman
Self-Proclaimed Woods Flame: Sorry, Elin
Tiger Woods' Woes Mount
Gatorade Drops Tiger Woods Drink

O'Connor, a columnist with "The Record" newspaper of New Jersey and author of "Arnie and Jack: Palmer, Nicklaus, and Golf's Greatest Rivalry," questioned the timing of the move, saying the last two weeks have "been a disaster for Woods and his team.

"They waited way too long to really speak, (enabling) the tabloid media and the gossip Web sites to sort of define this story, but I think at the end of the day, this was the right move, and I think it comes at a time when he really had no choice."

Woods "got a lot of bad advice," O'Connor added.

"First of all, not talking to the police, that was a mistake. And then, again, allowing that void to exist, where he didn't provide a credible counter-story to what was being put out there by his alleged mistresses and the tabloid media."

Then again, says sports business expert and Harvard Law School lecturer Rick Horrow, "There's no right timing for this. This is the perfect storm. (This is) the most recognizable guy on the planet, potentially, with the blogosphere where micro-second transmission of accurate or inaccurate information requires him to come out at a certain spot. He came out when he couldn't stay indoors and practice on carpet any longer. ... This is now carefully orchestrated - (sponsors coming) out with a statement, the PGA tour ... out with a statement. Is the hiatus with a capital "H" or a small "h"? That's gonna be the issue."

Horrow, author of "When the Game is on the Line," said the Woods camp was trying to get its ducks in a row. "There was an order of the high court in Britain to make sure that Tiger Woods' likeness was not published in any tabloids, even though they don't admit that. So, they went to court on that issue. They got the statements, I'm sure they talked to Nike. Nike pays him a substantial sum. Remember - (Tiger makes) $93 million of endorsements annually. This is a billion-dollar corporation. Don't take anything he does lightly."

One thing is certain, O'Connor says: "This is an unmitigated disaster for the PGA tour. Tiger Woods is the entire sport, he's the entire industry. And to have him out of play, there's really nobody to replace him. So, despite the fact that they would prefer to not have to deal with the scandal as it widens and deepens, I think that they prefer Tiger Woods and the ratings that are tethered to him back in play.

"And there really is nobody there behind him. There is a young group of stars trying to come up now, but there's nobody approaches Tiger Woods. He's the first golfer ever who is the world's most prominent athlete. Even Arnold Palmer did not attain that status. So there's no way this is a positive for the PGA tour to have him away."

O'Connor says any portrayal of Woods as a good family man is clearly "over-with now. When he comes back, the companies that stick by Tiger have to market him as a winner, as a champion, as the greatest player of all time. They can no longer market him as Jack Armstrong, the boy-next-door ... the All-American boy, that is over for good. So, I think some strategies have to change to make Tiger a viable corporate brand."