The former White House press secretary-turned image guru has found a new client: Tiger Woods has hired Ari Fleischer to manage his image as he thinks about a return to golf.

Indeed, who else would Tiger hire?

Since his time in government, Fleischer has become the go-to guy for things of this nature. He now runs Ari Fleischer Sports Communications, a New York-based firm that advertises itself as a messaging and press-management enterprise for athletes on its website:

The way the press treats athletes and sports executives has become increasingly adversarial and conflict-driven. Athletes who are trained to give it all and leave it on the field now face a public and a media that demand more. On the other hand, players and executives who get it often find their careers are launched to higher, more successful, lucrative levels -- thanks to the good publicity they receive.

Most recently, Fleischer helped Mark McGwire with the round of apologies that brought him back into the baseball fold after nearly a decade of self-imposed exile.

Tiger has indicated that he wants to start playing golf again, on his own. It's still unclear when, exaclty he'll return to pro golf. (But it is clear that the PGA needs him back, whenever he can get there.)

The bigger news for sports fans here is that Fleischer and Woods are reportedly planning a possible return to pro golf for Tiger on March 25 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando. If that happens, it will be a much quicker return than analysts had anticipated. Hearing Tiger's apology at TPC Sawgrass, it sounded like he could be gone for a year plus.

It was almost surprising that Tiger hadn't hired Fleischer already, before he made his televised apology to fans and friends; then again, a heartfelt apology shouldn't need image control. To take the cynical view, hiring Fleischer back then would have been bad PR.

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