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The Players’ Tribune editor reveals how site landed Tiger Woods’ scathing essay

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Regardless of individual opinion regarding the piece, Tiger Woods’ scathing commentary in which he savaged Golf Digest for publishing an imagined interview dreamed up by Dan Jenkins sent shockwaves through the sports journalism world.

Not only because Woods called out an established media outlet — not to mention a veteran, well-respected journalist in Jenkins — but also for the forum the golfer utilized to bet his message out to the masses.

Woods argued that Jenkins’ “interview” “fails as parody” and instead is more or less a “grudge-fueled piece of character assassination,” later sugesting that “[j]ournalistically and ethically, can you sink any lower?”

In what turned out to be a highly successful coup, The Players’ Tribune, the Derek Jeter-led website launched in October, landed its most controversial, most publicized and most popular essay yet by convincing the Tiger Woods camp to have the golfer’s highly opinionated takedown of Jenkins “interview” that was published on its site.

Of course, The Players’ Tribune’s core mission is to provide an unfiltered forum where athletes are allowed to express themselves as individuals, not extensions of a team or organization. This editorial freedom has attracted the likes of Russell Wilson, Blake Griffin and Kevin Love, to name a view, to sign on as a “Senior Editor,” “Guest Contributor” (as was the case with Woods) with the site and publish thoughtful, insightful and compelling pieces.

Gary Hoenig, the editorial director of The Players’ Tribune, told Golf.com how the site managed to convince Woods and his team to publish his essay on TPT.

“They were aware that we were encouraging athletes to speak their mind,” Hoenig reportedly told Golf.com in an e-mail. “I think they felt we were reaching a broader audience than their site.”

When asked if Woods’ essay was in his words and his words only, Hoenig admitted that the piece was essentially all Tiger, but added editorial assistance is provided if requested.

“The thrust of the piece came from him,” Hoenig said. “We offer editing advice on all pieces but only at the discretion of the athlete.”

Woods’ piece of course generated plenty of differing viewpoints, with some suggesting Woods has no sense of humor on one end and other castigating Jenkins and Golf Digest for engaging in such satire, although it is worth noting that it was plainly evident it was a “fake” interview, despite Lindsey Vonn’s protestations.

Hoenig said the response to the piece was a bit more heated than what the site has become accustomed in its infancy, adding that he was taken aback by the opinions of some critics of the essay.

“The response was more extreme that we’ve seen from other pieces, for obvious reasons,” he said. “I’m amused by the defensive and often condescending posture of some journalists, but it’s not surprising.”

When asked if additional pieces from Woods, who stepped out of character a bit in writing the essay, is in the offing for The Players’ Tribune, Hoenig said, “We’d certainly welcome them, but it’s entirely up to him.”

The safe bet would be to not expect another write-up from Woods in similar nature or tone. But other formats and topics? Possibly.