Woods delivers but only on his own terms

So much for shedding tears on Oprah.

Tiger Woods is finished. Done. Said all he’s going to say.

Pretty much everything was neatly wrapped up in 13 and a half

minutes, certainly to the satisfaction of the trio of women (his

mother included) who looked on approvingly from the front row.

Besides, he has other things to do. Sex therapy is apparently

just getting interesting, and he’s got some people back at the

clinic in Mississippi who might need his help.

Someday he may even play golf again. Not only that, there’s a

chance he’ll quit screaming the F-word every time he hits a bad

shot.

For three months we’ve been waiting for Woods to utter

something, anything, about the bizarre circumstances he finds

himself in.

In one weirdly scripted and strangely robotic appearance, we got

information overload.

Not about the salacious details of his wide and varied sex life,

and that’s a good thing. Woods was right when he said that was

between a husband and his wife, and surely we’ve heard enough

already.

Give him credit, too, for admitting his sins and apologizing not

only to fans everywhere but to parents who had to explain to their

kids why the world’s greatest golfer is no longer a great role

model. He had no choice, of course, but to come out and actually

say the words instead of hiding behind prepared statements had to

be a painful thing to do.

It’s all part of recovery, and at times it seemed like Woods was

trying to cram an entire 12-step program in for extra credit when

he returns to therapy. Other times it looked like a bad Saturday

Night Live skit. You half expected Tina Fey to jump onstage at any

minute.

Whatever it was, it had to be the most remarkable television

apology/explanation/performance since Richard Nixon saved his vice

presidential candidacy with his infamous “Checkers” speech more

than a half century ago. About the only thing missing was a mention

of his dog.

Elin wasn’t there, disappointing some online bookies who made

her even money to show up. Mom was, though, and the Tigercam stayed

tightly focused on her and two female Woods employees offering

looks of sympathy, one them even dabbing her eyes.

That, of course, was part of the plan. Everything was rehearsed,

everything was scripted. The camera angles showed only what Team

Woods wanted to show, and the three reporters allowed inside were

not allowed to ask any embarrassing questions.

Put it on late night cable with a suggested retail price of

$19.95 and you would find some takers. Toss in a few 8-by-10s of

Tiger jogging in his Nike apparel that the Woods camp released

earlier this week and you might have a hit.

But that’s all it was, an infomercial that seemed aimed directly

at the women in the audience.

It didn’t work.

“He just came across as very arrogant, not believable, not

likable,” said Ronn Torossian, CEO of 5WPR, a top New York PR firm

that does crisis management work. “I found myself almost giggling

in the sense of what was he apologizing for? Being caught or for

really doing something? The fact there was continually three women

in the frame was clearly very contrived as well.”

Indeed, Woods might have been better off issuing another

statement on his Web site, because this had all the soul of one of

his prepared releases. His people advertised the gathering as a

chance for him to personally apologize to friends and associates,

but most of the invited audience were either Woods’ employees or

PGA Tour executives.

And, while a lot of things were said, a lot more things went

unsaid.

Had Woods taken questions from reporters we might have found out

what caused his bad driving that Thanksgiving night in Florida.

Surely someone would have asked how a golf club ever got involved.

We might have learned whether he was on medication or had been

drinking when he ran into a fire hydrant and a tree.

There would have been questions about his relationship with a

Canadian doctor linked to human growth hormone. And he might have

been able to tell us why he was headed back to sex rehab again

after spending 45 days in a program usually completed in four to

six weeks.

We might have even found out if he was going to play in the

Masters the second week of April, something that still appears

likely.

We didn’t, because the man whose life so suddenly spun out of

control still desperately wants to be in control. The game has

changed, but Woods is still using the same playbook that catapulted

him into the biggest star in sports and made him the first athlete

to earn a billion dollars.

Under the old rules, it would now be over. Woods would be done

talking, and everyone would be happy to get back to watching him

play golf.

Not anymore. The script Woods read from is almost certainly the

last he’ll get away with using. Once he goes back on tour, the

questions will come.

For now we’re supposed to believe he’s working hard on being a

better husband and father. We’re supposed to believe he’s given up

his arrogant ways and wants only to live a life of integrity.

We’ll believe it when we see it, not just when he says it.

Because if we’ve learned anything about Tiger Woods in this

whole sordid mess, it’s that what he says and what he does can be

two very different things.

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Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated

Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org