Ari Fleischer, the former press secretary to George W. Bush, has been hired by Tiger Woods to map a plan for his return to golf — at the Arnold Palmer Invitational that tees off on March 25 at Bay Hill in Orlando, Fla., according to the New York Post.
Fleischer, who was Bush's press secretary from 2001 to 2003, has some experience in burnishing tarnished sports heroes, having been retained to buff up the image of baseball great Mark McGwire, the slugger who refused to answer a congressional hearing’s inquiries about his alleged steroid use while playing — but recently acknowledged it. He also advised the Packers in 2008 on how to smooth the road in that team’s breakup with quarterback Brett Favre.
In 2008, he formed Ari Fleischer Sports Communications, which specializes in crisis control. The business is a joint venture with IMG Sports and Entertainment. Woods is an IMG client.
The development comes on the heels of Woods’ recent reported outings with swing coach Hank Haney.
According to the Post report, a source revealed that Fleischer and Woods “were in his living room this week going over a strategy for how to handle Bay Hill in two weeks.”
Another source told The Post, “I would be shocked if he didn’t play the Arnold Palmer" tournament at Bay Hill.
Meanwhile, golf icon Arnold Palmer reportedly has confided that Woods will play at Bay Hill.
A final piece of circumstantial evidence is found in the fact that the Palmer tournament officials reportedlyare ramping up for a major media blitz.
Meanwhile, Mark O’Meara, Woods’ longtime friend and neighbor, told Golf Channel that he was looking to see Woods make his return at the Tavistock Cup slated for March 22-23 at Isleworth, Woods’ home course just outside the city of Orlando.
“It’s been a rough road the last three or four months in Tiger’s life and his family’s life," O’Meara said. "It’s a very difficult situation. Golf is what Tiger does, and possibly part of the healing process is to get back at it.”
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