JACKSONVILLE, Florida — When Tiger Woods makes his first public appearance in nearly three months on Friday, the big question is what will he say?
The topic was intriguing Americans — Woods was a trendy subject on Twitter a full day before his appearance.
Almost as intriguing is which "friends, colleagues and close associates" will be in the Sunset Room on the second floor of the Mediterranean-style clubhouse at the TPC Sawgrass.
Woods hasn't been seen in public since crashing his car into a tree outside his Florida home on Nov. 27, sparking sordid revelations of infidelity, and he hasn't been heard in the 78 days since a magazine released a voicemail that he allegedly left for one of the women to whom he has been romantically linked, pleading with her to remove his number from her cell phone.
Instead of going on "Oprah" or another national television show to break the ice, Woods essentially will be speaking to the lone camera allowed in the room. It will be televised via satellite.
Three U.S. networks — ABC, CBS and NBC — will carry the statement live. ESPN will have it live on all its platforms, including Internet streaming, radio and mobile. It also will be piped over YouTube, the Web's most popular video channel.
U.S. PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, who made the clubhouse available and was offering logistical help, has said he would attend, and as many as four other members of his executive staff will be in the room.
Security was tight by Thursday afternoon, with the main road to the clubhouse blocked off. Media were headquartered roughly a mile away at the Sawgrass Marriott, where seven satellite trucks were parked.
Inside, a couple of adjacent ballrooms where reporters will be able to watch the Woods' event looked like they were set up for a Super Bowl party. Flat-screen TVs stood along the walls and there was a big video screen in the center of the room.
A British bookmaker has set odds at 4-to-7 that Woods' wife, Elin, will be with him. William Hill didn't stop there, however. It offers 8-to-1 odds that Woods will announce he is getting a divorce, 12-to-1 odds that his wife is pregnant and 100-to-1 odds that he is retiring.
"While Tiger feels that what happened is fundamentally a matter between he and his wife, he also recognizes that he has hurt and let down a lot of other people who were close to him," his agent, Mark Steinberg, said in an e-mail on Wednesday. "He also let down his fans. He wants to begin the process of making amends and that's what he's going to discuss."
Steinberg invited three reporters from wire services — The Associated Press, Reuters and Bloomberg — and he turned to the Golf Writers Association of America to come up with a pool of three reporters. However, the GWAA board of directors voted overwhelming Thursday not to participate, turning down a negotiated offer to increase the number of pool reporters to six.
"I cannot stress how strongly our board felt that this should be open to all media and also for the opportunity to question Woods," said Vartan Kupelian, president of the 950-member group. "The position, simply put, is all or none. This is a major story of international scope. To limit the ability of journalists to attend, listen, see and question Woods goes against the grain of everything we believe."
The GWAA said it believes strongly that its presence, without the ability to ask question, gives credibility to an event that isn't worthy of it. Nineteen board members voted for the proposal to protest by boycotting the proceedings. There were four votes against the proposal and three abstentions.
Woods has always been about control, even in better times. He refused to go into the media center before a U.S. PGA Tour event if he was not the defending champion. If he agreed to a 10-minute interview to pitch a product he endorses, it was common for a company employee to be in the room making sure it didn't go one second beyond that.
But having not heard from Woods — except for three statements on his Web site — in three months, this event has taken on a life of its own.
Conversation raged online, as many took glee in speculating on what Woods will say Friday.
The golfer was the hottest topic on Google Trends. On Twitter, Woods was a dominant topic.
One of the most popular threads were tweets with the tag "tigershouldsay." Suggestions were predominantly sarcastic, such as: "At least I didn't use steroids."
Live events during work hours on weekdays have traditionally meant for robust traffic on the Web, since many viewers will be at work in front of computers, rather than home in front of TVs.
The U.S. PGA Tour will have two tournaments in progress on Friday, including the third round of the Accenture Match Play Championship, the first title sponsor to drop Woods during this sex scandal. Some players did not think it was a coincidence.
Most of them, however, will be just like everyone else — curious what Woods has to say, and how he says it.
"It has to be held at some stage," Padraig Harrington said. "The sooner he makes a statement, the better. And the sooner he's back to playing golf — he's pretty good at playing golf — the better." (AP)