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Tiger Wood Car Crash: What Really Happened?

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Each hour that passes without word from Tiger Woods about the details of his car crash early Friday morning may prove damaging to his image by filling an online rumor mill with conjecture, opinion and rumor, according to experts who advise high-profile athletes and celebrities on managing how they are viewed by others.

The decision relayed by Woods’s agent, Mark Steinberg, to put off until Sunday a Florida Highway Patrol interview with Woods and his wife, Elin, probably did not help Woods’s case in the court of public opinion, they said.

“I think the next 24 hours are critical that Tiger addresses this publicly,” said Steve Rosner, the founder of 16W Marketing, who represented the former Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor. “I understand it’s a personal matter, but because of who he is in the sports world, not only domestically but worldwide, I think it would help for him to put in his own words what transpired.”

Mike Paul, the founder of MGP and Associates, said that more than 3,200 stories were published worldwide in electronic or print form in the 36 hours after Woods drove his Cadillac Escalade over a fire hydrant and crashed into a neighbor’s tree at about 2:25 a.m. Friday.
“My advice to Tiger is pretty simple,” Paul said. “Own it, say it yourself, say it yourself with full conviction and responsibility and get it out of the way. “You have an opportunity to change rumor and innuendo into truth. Moving past fear and doubt — that’s something they did not do well during the first 24 hours.”

But now even the authorities will apparently have to wait at least another day to hear from Woods, who is not required to speak with them. An interview on Sunday could determine whether charges will be filed.
“This is still an ongoing crash investigation,” Sgt. Kim Montes, a spokeswoman for the Florida Highway Patrol, said Saturday afternoon in a statement. Earlier, in an e-mail message, Montes said: “We will not be addressing any rumors or other scenarios. If our investigation takes us in a different direction, we will let the media know.”

Woods, 33, was lying on the street unconscious near his vehicle for nearly five minutes, according to an incident report released by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, which received the initial 911 call from a resident of the gated community of Isleworth, an Orlando suburb where several high-profile athletes live.

Much of the speculation in the news media about the cause and nature of the incident stemmed from reports from the Windermere, Fla., police chief, Daniel Saylor, who said Friday that Woods’s wife used a golf club to break the rear window of the S.U.V. to help extricate Woods.

Saylor told reporters that when officers arrived on the scene, Woods was “drifting out of consciousness.” He was taken to the hospital 23 minutes after officers from the sheriff’s office arrived on the scene and was later released.

The Orlando Sentinel reported Saturday on its Web site that the highway patrol said Woods’s car received $5,000 to $8,000 worth of damage to the front bumper and grille, even though the airbags did not deploy.

The highway patrol said alcohol was not a factor.

Montes said the highway patrol had not yet reviewed a tape of a 911 call provided by the sheriff’s office and that there was no timeline for its release. The county sheriff’s office did, however, release a copy of the dispatch report on its Web site.

Experts say Woods may to have to step outside the cocoon in which his private life is usually wrapped in order to take control of the story. The longer he waits to address the news media about the accident, the greater the possibility that his reputation could suffer, they said.

Referring to the private lives of public figures, Rosner said, “They don’t need to tell everybody everything at every time, but because of what has transpired and the different reports that have come in, I think it is essential for him to address it within the next 24 hours.”

Regardless of when Woods chooses to address the incident publicly, he will have a chance to do so Tuesday at a previously scheduled news conference at the Chevron World Challenge, a tournament he is hosting at the Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, Calif.

Paul said that even if Woods waited until then to address the story, he must still face the subject.

“This isn’t about the tournament right now, unfortunately,” Paul said. “You’ve got major sponsors, you’ve got a major investment in it yourself, and the best way to protect them right now is to be there to answer the questions. You don’t want to be seen as lying and you don’t want to be seen as avoiding.”

Among questions almost certain to come up will be the descriptions of the scene when police arrived.

On Friday, Saylor of the Windermere police said in a briefing that officers found Woods lying in the street with his wife standing over him “frantic, upset.”

“It was her husband laying on the ground,” he said.

According to information from the dispatchers, and released by the sheriff’s office, Woods was lying on the street unconscious at 2:29:20 a.m.. At 2:33:49, the dispatch reported that the “male is breathing.”

Saylor said Friday that Woods sustained lacerations to his upper and lower lips and that there was blood in his mouth. Saylor said Woods was treated on scene for 10 minutes. The dispatch report shows that at 2:52 a.m. Woods was transported to Health Central Hospital in Ocoee. He was treated and released Friday in good condition, Woods’s spokesman said.

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