Should Tiger Woods fire his inner circle?

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Op-Ed

April 9, 2010

Tiger Woods roared back to competitive golf at The Masters after taking a five-month hiatus to repair his marriage and undergo rehab for an undisclosed addiction. In true champion form, he posted his best first round ever at the tournament. The fans cheered him and welcomed him back. America could use a nice role model and comeback story at this time of economic gloom and high unemployment.

Lurking behind this good story, however, is an inner circle of people around Mr. Woods who may have enabled his past indiscretions and abuses. If true, should Tiger make some changes to his staff?

Contradicting statements made by Mr. Woods that none of his closest staff knew about his numerous episodes of philandering, the current Vanity Fair reports otherwise. The article asserts that Byron Bell, President of Tiger Woods Design, may have assisted Tiger in arranging his affairs with young women. It also asserts that Tiger’s agent, Mark Steinberg, assisted on at least one occasion of covering up an affair once a national paper learned about it. Also, some of Mr. Woods’ few personal friends include infamous gamblers and womanizers Charles Barkley and Michael Jordan.

The New York Times reported that Tiger’s inner circle of staff and friends are fiercely loyal and that he has fired previous staff when they sought personal recognition. Has Tiger now just really assembled a team of enablers to his addictions? Can he possibly recover with these people still closely attached?

Walking off with Tiger after the 18th hole of Augusta on the first round was Mr. Woods’ sports agent. Why does a sports agent need to even attend the Masters, much less be so close to him during play? The rest of his circle is also at the Masters including Mr. Bell, his publicist, and a reported 90 bodyguards. Charles Barkley was in the media for “reaching out” to Tiger after his rehab. Jack Nicklaus, Bobby Jones, and Arnold Palmer never had such an entourage at major tournaments.Tiger and Steinberg

Addiction expert George Kolodner, MD, co-founder and Medical Director of the Kolmac Clinic, one of the most respected rehab facilities in the East Coast, commented, “We encourage our patients to establish a sober social network. We ask them to look at their current relationships and decide which people are understanding and supportive of their recovery and which ones are not and are unlikely to change. It is the last group that we suggest the patients keep at a distance until their recovery is more stable.”

The fact that Tiger Woods has made no changes to his inner circle of staff and “friends” who were around during his dark days of abuse is very concerning for his prospects of a long-term recovery. The similarities to the opportunists surrounding Howard Hughes, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Anna Nicole Smith, etc, are eerie. Do Tiger’s closest friends know too many details about his bad behavior making them difficult to fire?

The only close confidantes that Tiger Woods should have around him are his caddy, swing coach, doctors, reputable accountants, wife and family. A priest or Buddhist monk might help as well. The recidivism rate for some addictions is 90% and he needs all the help he can get.

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