*Tiger Woods has reportedly hired George W. Bush’s former press secretary Ari Fleischer to help orchestrate his comeback, which is likely to take place on March 25 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in Orlando, according to the New York Post.
“They were in his living room this week going over a strategy for how to handle Bay Hill in two weeks,” said one of two unnamed sources quoted by the paper.
Knowing he eventually has to stand before everyone publicly and take questions — something he didn’t do in his orchestrated media address on Feb. 19 — is why Woods sought out the advice of Fleischer, who in 2008 formed Ari Fleischer Sports Communications.
The firm, which focuses on crisis response and control, is a joint venture with IMG Sports & Entertainment. Woods is represented by IMG.
Fleischer, who served as presidential press secretary from January 2001 to July 2003 before leaving for a career as a consultant, worked with McGwire after the disgraced slugger had gone into hiding following his embarrassing refusal to answer questions about his steroid use before a congressional committee in 2005.
Before his recent public admission to using steroids, necessitated in part by his return to the Cardinals as a hitting instructor, McGwire was advised by Fleischer.
The NFL and Major League Baseball also are among Fleischer’s high-profile clients. He advised the Packers in 2008 on how to deal with the fallout from their breakup with Brett Favre and he’s worked with college football’s BCS on how to repair an image that has been ridiculed.
As for Tiger’s probable return to golf at the Arnold Palmer tournament, Palmer himself reportedly told some close confidants that Woods is definitely playing Bay Hill. Quietly, the people running the tournament are preparing for a larger-than-usual media crush.
Mark O’Meara, Woods’ longtime friend and neighbor, told Golf Channel yesterday that he “wouldn’t be surprised” to see Woods make his anticipated return at the Tavistock Cup, a made-for-TV inter-club event on March 22-23 at Isleworth, Woods’ home course outside of Orlando.
O’Meara said the two-day exhibition matches might be a “nice way” for Woods to “ease back into the whole situation.”