Golf star Tiger Woods lets down more than just his wife

From the moment Tiger Woods was involved in a car accident 10 days ago, the rumour mill has been going into overdrive.

A lot of journalists and media types already knew something more was going on that a simple road incident but the extent of the alleged misdemeanours by the world’s biggest sporting icon has surprised most of us.

Tiger Woods has always maintained a perfect off-field image.

That’s why he has become the wealthiest sportsman on the planet, amassing a wealth of almost $1 billion through deals with the likes of Gillette, Accenture, Nike, EA Sports and others.

As a mercurial sportsman Woods’ impact on the global landscape is perhaps beyond even his comprehension.

When Woods burst onto the golfing scene in the early 1990s, he was a revelation, a black American proving his excellence in a traditionally white-dominated sport.

Insititutional racism still exists – bigotry and prejudice is everywhere, bubbling under the surface and Woods had done so much to prove that black sportsmen could be a success in a typically white sport.

Unlike boxers with their bravado; footballers with their posturing; and athletes before Usain Bolt brought new life to the sport, Woods gave respectability to black sportsmen in a way no one had done before.

I was shocked by his statement last week when he said he was “…dismayed to realise the full extent of what tabloid scrutiny really means. Personal sins shouldn’t require press releases and problems within a family shouldn’t have to mean public confessions.”

You’re wrong, Mr Woods. Your wealth has been based on your sporting success and squeaky clean public persona and that has now been shattered.

He had a bigger responsibility to maintain his standards than possibly anyone else in sport – and if he didn’t realise that or like it, he was perfectly happy to take the huge wealth that came his way as a consequence.

The public love a hero but there’s been a case of schadenfreude as more incidences of alleged misdemeanours come to light.

Will it harm the Woods brand in the long run? Most PR experts say no, as long as he keeps on winning, with other sportsmen cited as examples who recovered from scandal.

The difference is that none of them earned as much or were as ubiquitous as Woods, nor lived a life based on the integrity and solid values he built his brand upon.

With success comes temptation, opportunity and the show you’re human after all.

Regardless of what he said before, the only way Woods can recover some of the respect he has lost is by staging a very public press conference where he opens his heart and, without necessarily going into details, vows to make amends.

I’ve spoken to people who claim to feel very let down by his actions and there’s no doubt he has set back the progress he made when blazing a trail as one of the greatest sporting talents of his generation.

There’s more to being a great sportsman than just winning, as Woods is finding out.