A Curious Case of Timing

Billy Payne, Chairman
Augusta National Golf Club

By Eric Seidel, CEO

The Media Trainers®

We’ve known about Tiger Woods’ sexual sins for nearly five months. There’s been plenty of time for all who have a vested interest in the game of golf and Woods’ contribution to it, to voice their opinions and concerns. Yet Billy Payne, Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, chose the day before this year’s Masters Tournament began to pronounce his own admonition.

No question Woods’ awful behavior still is too fresh to completely ignore, and Payne certainly had one of those vested interests. But Augusta National prides itself on tightly controlling its brand and image, especially during Masters Week. Golf during that week always has been the strict focus; controversies have been marginalized as much as possible. Payne, however, for some unexplained reason, chose to snap all attention back to Tiger’s tattered image and, as a result, thus taking some of the bloom off of Augusta National’s fabled dogwoods and azaleas.

On the day before the tournament, why wasn’t it time to let those salacious dalliances retreat to the shadows and allow the grandeur of the Masters to re-emerge? And who better than the chairman to make the transition?

But, Billy Payne decided more had to be said about Tiger Woods:

“…it is the fact that he disappointed all of us…”

Our hero did not live up to the role model we sought for our children.”

“…his future will never again be measured only by his performance against par, but measured by the sincerity of his efforts to change.” (Click on video below.)

While it’s customary for Augusta National’s chairman to make a statement before competition begins, Payne had a perfect opportunity to refocus attention on his tournament instead of the soiled reputation of one of its players.

6 thoughts on “A Curious Case of Timing

  1. Sometimes CEOs and chairmen, like Billy Payne, become a little too full of themselves and perceive their responsibilities to encompass more territory than stated in their job descriptions; and so it seems with Payne. If Payne felt the need to comment on Woods’ behavior or depth of character, when those issues were actually news, five months ago, was the time to offer his opinions. Masters Week is the time to concentrate on one of golf’s great events, which is far broader and more meaningful than Woods’ personal failings.

  2. True, but when else would Payne have had a national audience of cameras and viewers in which to do it? Those of us in front of the camera all the time sometimes forget the rare confluence of events that allows others that same access.
    It was great talking to you, Eric!

  3. There may be a subtle story within a story going on. Consider this scenario. At a certain level, Billy Payne already knows the reality cited in your blog. But his comments may have been aimed more at his (Payne’s) internal masters (the people to whom Payne reports) than to Tiger.
    In other words, he was preaching to the choir but his words validate their values and what the Masters is all about.
    The second story is that Payne’s public admonition to Tiger could be interpreted as motivational. That is, if Tiger played well, it would prove that he “heard” Payne and responded accordingly. It could also attest to Tiger’s innate skill. If Tiger did not play well, it proved that he was rusty which most people would accept.
    Either way, Payne is the master of the situation.

  4. Happy birthday, Eric!

    I think Payne addressed the Tiger issue, even if there wasn’t much new to be said, simply because the Masters Tournament gives him a once-a-year opportunity to wield a big megaphone and reach a large audience. Plus, by acknowledging Tiger’s transgressions and separating them from Tiger’s golf game, he positions Tiger’s appearance at the tournament in the proper light while protecting the sanctity of the Masters brand. It was a bit of ‘tough love.’

  5. Thanks for all these excellent comments (above). I certainly understand Billy Payne had his moment during his State of the Masters speech. But you understand, just as I do, that he could’ve arranged an interview or even a news conference anytime before the Masters and gotten widespread coverage. The media world has changed so radically with the Internet and all that’s available on cable and satellite (ESPN, the business channels, the Golf channel, etc.) and it’s such a viral world today, Payne had plenty of opportunities to say his piece, attract plenty of media and public attention, and still protect the dignity of the tournament well before it began.

  6. Brand Protection vs Integrity?

    I find it quite interesting that the protection of the Master’s brand was so very important that Billy Payne had to conduct his second class lynching of the greatest golfer of all time at this time and in such a public way. It seems that if this is so important to all of Augusta National’s publics, that it would have been equally, if not more, important that the promoters of Augusta National Golf Club would publicly announce a change to its past discriminatory and racist practices which have historically excluded people of color and women from participating in some of golf’s greatest sporting events. No press conferences were held to address a change to the reprehensibly oppressive and discriminatory activities of the past.

    Payne could have demonstrated some degree of integrity by addressing the rather insignificant nature of Tiger’s transgressions when compared the tattered past practices that were institutionalized as a matter of policy at Augusta. Payne came face to face with past transgressions and the current sinful ways of a superstar and opted to “cast yet another first stone” which for me demonstrated the ultimate hypocrisy. Yet another belated opportunistic shot at Tiger was required to take our hero down yet another notch without assessing the contradictions of Augusta’s past? What complete and absolute hypocrisy. I trust that integrity and truth rule the day so that these sporting event organizers realize that they too have a responsibility to speak the whole truth with integrity while attempting to protect the brand of one of the world’s greatest sporting events! I respect their efforts to allow for Tiger’s coming out party, but let’s face it, money talks and b—– —t walks.

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