New York:In the nearly two weeks since Tiger Woods became tabloid fodder, his personal Web site has turned into a kind of town hall meeting on his reported extramarital behavior.
More than 22,000 comments, many of them supportive but plenty of the finger-wagging variety, followed the Dec. 2 statement in which he admitted to vague "transgressions" and to letting his family down.
The scandal over Woods' suspected misdeeds has elevated TigerWoods.com's traffic drastically, although not into the Internet stratosphere. In the week ending Nov. 29 - the day he issued his statement about his car accident - the number of unique users soared to 488,000 visitors, according to Nielsen Online.
In that same period, it beat the 89,000 who visited BritneySpears.com.
But in the weeks ended Nov. 8 and Nov. 15, Woods' site posted just 27,000 and 21,000 unique visitors. And the next week, there were too few visitors to meet Nielsen's cutoff for measurement.
In a broader measure, a Google Trends chart shows the worldwide traffic for TigerWoods.com nearly flatlining from 2006 to 2008, except for spikes in the spring and summer, coinciding with the playing of the golf majors.
"Typically, individual athlete sites don't get much traffic," said Andrew Lipsman, a spokesman for comScore, an online research firm. In October, comScore said TigerWoods.com had 51,000 unique visitors.
An intriguing, even unusual, aspect of the site is its editor: Mark Soltau, a respected longtime golf journalist and contributing editor at Golf Digest. It is rare for a journalist to work simultaneously as the editorial overseer of the Web site of the most important player in the sport. To do his job, Soltau gets time with Woods at tournaments that other reporters evidently don't. Reporters want to be on the inside but rarely get there. Soltau declined to comment on his working relationship with Woods.
Jerry Tarde, the editor in chief of Golf Digest, said he did not consider Soltau's role a journalistic problem.
"Mark Soltau is a contributing editor to Golf Digest, not a staff writer," Tarde wrote in an e-mail message. He said Soltau's work was restricted to Woods' bylined pieces and the
"What's in my bag?" equipment feature.
"Mark does not write feature articles for the magazine, so I don't consider his work for TigerWoods.com a conflict," he wrote.
Woods is listed as a "playing editor" for the magazine, where he has had a longstanding deal.
Tarde said there were no plans to change that relationship in light of the Woods scandal.
Woods is pictured on the cover of the magazine's January issue, playing caddie to President Barack Obama, in a composite photo. The headline for the article - "10 Tips Obama Can Take From Tiger" - now reads like a punch line. "The issue left the presses on Nov. 14 and Tiger's accident occurred on Nov. 27," Tarde wrote via e-mail.
Woods will, to many people, be seen through the prism of personal actions that have pierced the shield of his privacy and threatened his marriage. It's easy on his site to see how everything - the golfer, the man, the scandal - now blends together. Last Sunday, when Jim Furyk won the Chevron World Challenge, which Woods hosts but did not attend, Soltau's wrap-up was followed by 147 comments, nearly all about the scandal.
"I am very disappointed on how the world has responded to your troubles," Kenny wrote. "It only goes to show what a wicked world we live in." Foxey wrote, "I signed onto this site when I thought I could respect Tiger - how wrong I am." And Magalie added: "As a lover of golf, and someone who roots for anyone who is a stellar success in his sport, I wanted to believe this scandal was a one-time occurrence. But the truth is that you are a low-down, dirty dog." A writer named me2inAL, one of the few correspondents to focus on Furyk (and vainly try to tell others to follow), wrote: "CONGRATULATIONS Jim! What a great victory for you."
It wasn't long ago that the site was a benign place for Woods to exist in his corner of the Web. That recent past is still visible, in his blog posts, answers to "Dear Tiger" questions, photo galleries, golf tips, outtakes from commercial shoots, fitness advice, career statistics and a "Tiger vs. Jack" comparison.
In fact, nothing on the home page of TigerWoods.com suggests that anything in his world is amiss.