Why the Tiger Woods crisis isn't just about sport

I got into a fascinating debate with a friend at the weekend about the relevance of Tiger Woods' personal misdemeanours in the big scheme of his career.

My friend pointed out, quite rightly, that Woods remains one of the most exceptional golfers of all time and whatever he has done personally, that will remain the case.

He added that woods has not proclaimed at every opportunity what a great man and a great husband he is.

That is down, he said, to the agents, the marketers and the PR men and to a certain extent he is correct.

Woods has been a marketers dream because he is a black man in a white man's sport (ostensibly) and helped to promote golf to a wider audience than it has ever known before.

Just look at the figures of viewers when Woods plays in tournaments or when he doesn't - they drop significantly when he is absent.

But it goes beyond that.

Woods may not have proclaimed he was an impossibly virtuous individual, but earning close to $1 billion has not come through sporting excellence alone.

Woods has been part of the development of an image which has set him up unreasonably as a paragon of virtue, of excellence and a role model across the planet.

He has given black people and those living in developing countries the belief that they too can raise their lives to new standards.

You don't have to be a golf fan to know who Tiger Woods is or what he stood for.

And that's why so many sponsors flocked to him and, understandably, he was only too happy to accept the millions they offered him to raise their profile, highlight their values and engage with the audiences they sought to attract.

In all honesty, Woods' public persona has been somewhat bland, such is the control he and his advisors have had over his image.

If Woods had simply separated from his wife and his communications team helped him to deal privately with his personal problems, perhaps he would have had no need to announce he would take a break from the sport.

But the sheer scale of his infidelity has been so extensive that it will be no surprise if more companies follow Accenture in ending their arrangements with Woods.

These companies stand for integrity and trustworthiness, traits which golf and Woods were supposed to embody.

While the likes of Nike and Gillette (despite pulling back slightly) will probably stand by him in the long term, many others will walk away.

Woods needs to get back on the course and keep doing what he does best - winning major tournaments.

In the end, that is what he will probably be remembered for most in years to come.

But by allowing himself to be put on such a pedestal, he was always there to be shot at if the slightest misdemeanour came out.

Woods' spectacular fall from grace is a lesson to all not to paint yourself as a paragon of virtue, especially if the true story is something completely different.