Tiger Woods Cited For Reckless Driving, Still Not Talking

Golf great Tiger Woods continues to face mounting scrutiny after he crashed his luxury SUV Friday into a tree, after hitting a fire hydrant in his upscale gated community in Florida. Woods has been cited for reckless driving by local authorities. But speculation surrounding tabloid reports that the accident resulted from an altercation between Woods and his wife Elin Nordegren have been stoked by the sports star's refusal to offer more details about the incident to authorities. Roy Johnson, the editor-in-chief of Men's Fitness magazine who has interviewed Tiger Woods in the past, shares thoughts on what the incident — and the growing speculation — could mean for the sport's superstar and his lucrative career.

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

And finally, we turn to a story that's been burning up the airwaves and the blogosphere, the question surrounding golf great Tiger Woods recent car accident. The actual case may be closed.

Florida authorities announced on Tuesday that Woods would be cited for reckless driving in the incident which carries a $164 fine. No criminal charges are expected to be filed, but speculation about what happened is wide open. Woods crashed his SUV last Friday hitting a fire hydrant and a tree in the wee hours of the morning near his Florida home.

He cited injuries from the accident as the reason for withdrawing from this week's Chevron World Challenge, the golf tournament that benefits his foundation. But Woods has declined to speak to the police or to answer questions from fans and the media. In a statement, he characterized the incident as a private matter and asked for the public's understanding.

We wanted to talk more about this, so we called Roy Johnson. He's editor-in-chief of Men's Fitness magazine and he's interviewed Tiger Woods several times. Welcome, Roy. Thanks for joining us.

Mr. ROY JOHNSON (Editor-in-Chief, Men's Fitness Magazine): Thank you for having me, Michel. How are you?

MARTIN: I'm fine. Explain briefly, though, for people who don't follow sports just how significant a player in the world of sports is Tiger Woods? In other words, why do care so much what happened?

Mr. JOHNSON: Well, he is the most significant athlete in the world. He is global. He's made millions and is projected to be the first billion dollar athlete. He has crossed racial lines in a sport that has a unique and twisted racial history. His importance to the sport cannot be truly quantified and he has really changed the game of sports business more than anyone certainly since Michael Jordan and maybe as much as anyone ever.

MARTIN: And for such a public, such a prominent sports figure, is he very public generally? I mean do we know a lot about him? Is he somebody who's very accessible generally?

Mr. JOHNSON: We know about Tiger Woods essentially what he wants us to know about him. He has guarded his private life as much as any public figure and has been pretty successful at it. The interviews he has done, including mine and the times I've interviewed him through the years, were very specific and targeted.

And when I was with him, he was always open about anything we wanted to discuss. So he picks and chooses his moments, but he doesn't do a lot of interviews outside of golf tournaments and with his relationship with Golf Digest, so we know about Tiger what he wants us to know.

MARTIN: He issued a brief statement about the accident on his Web site this weekend. He said the situation is my fault. It's obviously embarrassing to my family and me. I'm human and I'm not perfect. I will certainly make sure that this doesn't happen again. This is a private matter and I want to keep it that way.

And I want to ask you about that. Is that kind of classic Tiger or does that have the flavor of kind of a managed situation? And I do want to emphasize that he was not under any legal obligation to speak to the police. And I think that's an important, you know, point that he's not - he is exercising his legal rights. And so people can have opinions about that but that is the fact, but what about that?

Mr. JOHNSON: Well, I think the answer is yes and yes. It was classic Tiger. A new-age athlete who is speaking to the world through his own Web site, doesn't need a press conference, doesn't need reporters, doesn't need a spokesperson. Just type it into your own Web site.

It is also classic Tiger and that it is managed and guarded. Very few people have probably seen the private Tiger, the one, you know, he is with friends and people that he trusts the most. So I'm not surprised that that is the way he disseminated his message and I'm also not surprised at the wording.

It clearly sounds as if it is someone who is starting down a path of contrition, who is starting to perhaps try to take some personal responsibility, maybe trying to guard and protect his loved ones from various things, including the public things that have already transpired and the accident et cetera. So I don't believe though it's going to be the last that he's going to be able to have to speak about it but I'm not surprised that that is how he initially came out.

MARTIN: And finally Roy, part of it, of course, was fueling the speculation is gossip. It has been alleged that there was a domestic incident at his home, which was perhaps sparked by some liaison outside the marriage. This has been kind of much discussed in the tabloids, of course, and has, you know, has and obviously the rumor has kind of penetrated the mainstream media.

Now some people are saying this is none of our business. You know, the only person hurting this was him. It's none of our business. He has every right not to talk about it. But given that he is such a significant public figure, do you think that there will be pressure on him to talk more about this? He has endorsement deals worth millions. Do you think this will have an impact on his career, very briefly, if you would?

Mr. JOHNSON: Long-term, I think Tiger will be fine. There's no question we live in a celebrity-driven world and every celebrity is fair game, even when that celebrity is named Tiger Woods.

MARTIN: And do you think that this will affect all his various endorsement deals and so forth? I know I'm asking you to speculate, but I am asking you to speculate.

Mr. JOHNSON: You know, I think in the short-term, people, including his sponsors will be watching and waiting but I think they will be loyal to him and as soon as he gets back out on the golf course, they will be right there beside him.

MARTIN: Roy S. Johnson is editor-in-chief of Men's Fitness magazine. He joined us from his home office in New York. Roy, thank you once again.

Mr. JOHNSON: Thank you.

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MARTIN: And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Let's talk more tomorrow.

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