Don't expect to see Tiger any time soon

Despite Tiger Woods' statement Sunday about his early-morning car crash the day after Thanksgiving, Woods left many questions unanswered and the media swirl around the story has grown exponentially in the days since Friday.

One query was answered Monday when Woods pulled out of his own Chevron World Challenge tournament that benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation. So why did he decide not to play this week? ESPN.com golf writers Jason Sobel and Bob Harig discuss that decision and more in their e-mail chat, Alternate Shot.

In maybe the least shocking news regarding Tiger Woods that we've heard in a week, the Chevron World Challenge tournament host has decided to forgo this week's festivities, citing "injury" from his recent single-car accident. Of course, that injury may very well be a bruised ego.

After the accident in front of his home, Woods was admitted to a local hospital and treated for facial lacerations; even though he contended on his personal Web site that he was "sore," it doesn't sound like something that should prohibit his golf swing. I mean, isn't this the same guy who won a U.S. Open with a torn ACL and multiple leg fractures?

The reality is, whether Woods is seriously concussed or just has a couple of scrapes, it doesn't matter. He was never going to tee it up this week after the incident occurred. The injury just gives him an official, legitimate excuse. He doesn't want to be seen in public right now -- for a variety of reasons -- and withdrawing from his own tourney is a way of deflecting any further attention from himself and the ongoing investigation.

But again, this move shouldn't surprise us, right?

Well, yes and no. I certainly am not surprised that he might want to be ducking all the attention that would be sure to come his way after all that has transpired since the wee hours of Friday morning. But we're talking about his tournament, one he has hosted for a decade.

This is a major fundraiser for the Tiger Woods Foundation. And just like for any tournament -- his included -- not having Tiger in the field severely diminishes it. Ticket sales will suffer, as will television ratings. That means the sponsor, Chevron, takes a hit. Lots in play here.

So no, it's not surprising given all that has happened, but when you think of it in the context of what this event means to him, yeah, it's not your average tournament withdrawal.

This situation is a whole lot bigger than the tournament itself. Think of the perfect -- or, in Tiger's case, imperfect -- storm that would be brewing out there: Not only would he be meeting with the media for the first time since the accident while apparently still showing facial lacerations but he would be doing so in front of a media contingent that would supersede anything we're used to even at the Masters or U.S. Open.

This is La-La-Land, home of the TMZs and National Enquirers of the world, and Woods has made it known that he isn't ready to speak frankly about the entire incident, let alone in front of such a voracious throng of media.

Of course, even if he had chosen to go ahead with the regularly scheduled news conference before playing four rounds, it wouldn't have included anything juicy. He would have simply reiterated the statement that was issued Sunday, then maintained that, because this is an open investigation, he could not discuss the events of early Friday morning.

I would maintain that tournament organizers could control the media access. It's their tournament. They wouldn't have to credential all those folks. They could say the credential deadline passed, they don't have space, etc.

Still, your big point is well taken. He just doesn't want to deal with all this. And let's face it, if he is sore, not feeling well, injured in any way, why risk it from the playing standpoint?

Come on, Bob! Do you really think he's that sore from allegedly pulling out of his driveway and hitting a fire hydrant?

Tiger probably has suffered worse injuries going over a speed bump in his golf cart. Again, let's remember -- and in all caps this time: DUDE WON THE U.S. OPEN WITH A TORN ACL!!! If he really did play with a little soreness, maybe it would just level the playing field a little bit, but I'd still pick him to win this thing for a fifth time this decade.

Instead, the withdrawal is simply an excuse to remain tucked away at Isleworth for as long as possible. It might be a cop-out, although I can't say it's necessarily the wrong strategy. The media aside, I wonder what the fan and player reaction to Woods' appearance would have been. You know he'd hear plenty of catcalls from the cheap seats.

There's no doubt he has suffered, and even played with, worse injuries. So it might be a convenient excuse, but he's not going to play in an otherwise meaningless event if he's in any way injured. Why risk anything?

That said, it says something that he would go to these lengths to skip a tournament that is obviously dear to him. He donates all of his prize money to the foundation, and a victory means more than $1 million. He has meetings with sponsors and board members. And he's skipping all of that? So yes, he wants to stay out of sight, and I'm guessing that means we won't see him for about two months.

Sure, I can just see those meetings now.

"So, we'd like to discuss the upcoming fiscal year and some marketing campaigns we've been working on for you, but first ... what the hell really happened?"

As for donating prize money to his foundation, Woods has done plenty to help out financially in the past and I have no doubt he will continue to do so in the future. Once again, it's much, much, much bigger than all of this.

As for the next time we'll see him, I have Jan. 26, 2010, circled on my calendar. That would be Tuesday of the erstwhile Buick Invitational -- now called the Century Club of San Diego Invitational -- traditionally when Tiger holds his pre-tournament news conference for the week.

I don't believe he will play in any events before that one, and I don't think he'll show up in public before that date, either. We might want to get our seats in the interview room a few minutes early for that one.

He has skipped the season opener in Hawaii for the past several years, and once a tournament gets off Tiger's schedule, it typically stays off. So Torrey Pines is a solid bet, and he'll have happier things to talk about there.

It will be his first visit since winning the U.S. Open on one leg. Do you think that injury from 18 months ago or his latest ones will get more attention? That's eight weeks away. A lot of time for things to die down.

Or heat up.

His 2009 season debut at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship was the biggest media circus I had ever seen for a golf tournament, with 525 credentialed newspeople from 187 outlets. Those numbers are smaller than at some of the major championships, but they weren't there for the event; they were there simply for Tiger.

And if everything goes this way -- with Woods not showing his face in public again until that day at Torrey Pines -- I expect that WGC turnout to pale in comparison to the one we'll see this time around. In the bye week before the Super Bowl, news of Woods' appearance will make the front pages once again -- especially if this entire situation is still shrouded in mystery. His return to Torrey for the first time since winning the Open there will surely take a backseat to everything else.

His 2010 season debut would be a big deal regardless, but add in the events of the past few days and the fact that we are unlikely to see him between now and then and, yes, it will be a huge deal.

But by then, this story will have waned. The questions will still be there, but he won't answer them. It might be a tad uncomfortable for him at times, but then he'll get between the ropes and do what he always does, block everything else out. All those people who show up are likely to be disappointed -- unless they are there for the golf shots.