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Tiger will never give all the details
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AUGUSTA, Ga.He walked into the Masters media center with the makings of a goatee — maybe the new motif of Tiger 2.0 — took a breath, smiled a little nervously and finally sat down for the news conference he should've had five months ago.
After 35 minutes, the questions were over — not because there were none left to ask but because the moderator, Augusta National's Craig Heatley, must've thought we all had somewhere more important to go. And truthfully, I didn't know a lot more than I did before I sat down.
But I've come to accept that's the way it's going to be with Tiger Woods.
He isn't one for picking his own scabs in public.
He'll give up some of what's inside — if only because he knows the questions won't go away if he keeps running away — but not all of it.
Never all of it.
And maybe that's too much to ask, anyway. Who among us would want our life's darkest secrets to become the subject of debate — to sext or not to sext, that is the question! — in the queue at Starbucks?
It's obvious from the two mini-interviews he did with the Golf Channel and ESPN a couple of weeks ago, coupled with Monday's news conference, that Woods won't go into what happened on Thanksgiving when he infamously crashed his Escalade into a fire hydrant and a tree at 2.30 a.m.
That incident may have triggered the tabloid maelstrom that swallowed his life, but he won't go into the details of that night because the devil does indeed live in those details.
Woods had a serious cut on his lip when the ambulance took him to hospital, which may, or may not, have been the result of hitting his head on the steering wheel.
On Monday, for the first time, he acknowledged the "busted-up lip" and said it required five stitches. But that's as far as he went.
And, really, what else can he say?
If he says his wife, Elin, caused the injury, he invites police charges and would also have to admit he and his wife gave false statements.
"I did everything to the letter of the law," he said Monday, "The lawyers gave me advice, and I followed that advice."
If he'd made a mistake, it was in listening too thoroughly to lawyers when he was in the middle of a public relations inferno fanned by his silence.
Neither will Woods say just what it was he was being treated for during a 45-day stay at a sex addiction clinic in Mississippi. I find this particularly strange. Are we to believe he was there to work on his putting stroke?
It might be embarrassing to say he was there because he was addicted to sex with cocktail waitresses and porn queens but, really, does he have anything left to be embarrassed about? Say it, Tiger, and the truth shall set you free.
If you listen carefully, neither does Woods actually ever say what his sins actually were. He speaks in broad terms, saying things like "how far astray I got from my core fundamentals and the core morals that my mom and dad taught me."
Again, maybe that's the lawyer in him, but I think people would be willing to accept him speaking honestly about his failings.
The third taboo subject on Monday was his marriage, which by all accounts is hanging by a thread. Woods referred to "my wife" numerous times, but only once managed to once speak her name. "Elin is not coming this week, no," he said.
The follow-up question was as close to combative as the session got. "So should you be returning to the game so soon without time repairing your relationship?"
"Well, I'm excited to play this week," he replied.
When all else fails, and you can't think of anything to say, return to the talking points.
Woods had certainly arrived armed with his message for the day. Politicians need to be taught to stay on message, but Tiger Woods was born that way.
"Coming into today, I didn't know what to expect with regards to the reception, and I tell you what, the galleries couldn't be nicer," he said.
"It was just incredible. The encouragement that I got, it blew me away to be honest with you, it really did. And the people here over the years, I know they are extremely respectful, but today was just something that really touched my heart pretty good."
Not to be too cynical, but all the thousand or so fans who'd shown up to watch him play an early morning practice round with Freddie Couples did was not heckle or jeer. They were polite, but they were hardly chanting his name.
But it serves Woods' purpose to talk about being well-received by the fans and his peers because he wants to move the conversation away from his paramours and rumors of HGH use — he again denied ever taking performance-enhancing drugs — back onto golf, where at least he has a chance of winning.
If there was something he said that bothered me, it was the sad little attempt to resuscitate the "brand." Woods said he understood why his sponsors — principally Accenture, Gatorade and AT&T — dropped him in the wake of the scandal. He should've left it there but instead added: "Hopefully I can prove to other companies going forward that I am a worthy investment, that I can help their company, help their company grow and represent them well."
Does he really need advertising geniuses turning him into a false prophet again?
If there was a genuinely tender moment, it came when he spoke of missing his son Charlie's first birthday because he was in rehab in Mississippi. "That hurts a lot," he said, "I vowed I would never miss another one after that. I can't go back to where I was."
I think he was genuine when he reflected on the "more centered, more balanced" person he was trying to become, using Buddhism as the guiding light. "Unfortunately, I got away from that and I just lost that and unfortunately also lost my life in the process."
The short of it is that Woods wants us to believe that his evil mini-me has been forever banished and that he's reformed and wants to be forgiveness.
Whether that happens or not remains to be seen.
But this week's Masters will play a pivotal role in the reformation of Tiger Woods.
Americans, after all, love a winner.
"That first tee, I'm looking forward to it," he said, "I haven't looked forward to a tee shot like that in a long time.
"It feels fun again. You know, that's something that's been missing. Have I been winning, have I been competing, have I been doing well? Yeah, I have. I've won numerous times the last few years, but I wasn't having anywhere near the amount of fun.
"Why? Because look at what I was engaged in. When you live a life where you're lying all the time, life is not fun. And that's where I was. Now that's been stripped all away and here I am. And it feels fun again."
When Woods was asked what his expectations were for the Masters, he smiled.
"Nothing's changed," he said, "Going to go out there and try to win this thing."
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