Tiger's not out of the Woods yet

Sunday evening, ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi did what even Oprah Winfrey could not: be the first person interview Tiger Woods one-on-one since November 2009.

I came away from the five-minute segment with mixed feelings.

As usual, Tiger left me with many questions still about what has transpired in his life in recent months, and even years.

He did, however, give some perhaps unanticipated answers.

This was better than last month for Tiger, when he gave a woefully unemotional speech in front of a room of people he selected with more care than a 5-year-old girl constructs her dollhouse.

I won’t say I saw the “real Tiger,” because quite frankly I don’t know who that is. And neither does anyone else, including Tiger.

“I was living the life of a lie…and stripping away denial and rationalization you start coming to the truth of who you really are and that can be very ugly,” Woods said.

Now he’s getting somewhere.

He finally admitted he was a fraud. It’s one thing to say he’s had “multiple transgressions” and admit to any other wrongful acts, but for him to admit his behavior was fraudulent to even those who care about him most, spoke to me about his character now.

But back to his marriage. How the man has been able to keep his wife from abandoning him already is better than any seven-iron shot out of the rough he’s ever made.

When asked to answer specifically what happened on Thanksgiving night last year, when Woods’ car was found crashed into a tree and the media frenzy that was his life ensued, he said that beyond the legal documents it was a private matter.

He wouldn’t describe a single part of that night, including why he lost control of the car before he even left the driveway.

That’s his bad. If he wants to eliminate speculation from the minds of millions, he’d better come clean on what really happened that night. That doesn’t mean he has to give a play-by-play of what happened, but by holding silent it leads us to believe whatever happened could not have been much worse than we can imagine.

Rinaldi concluded the interview by asking Woods “how do you reconcile what you’ve done with (the love with his wife)?

To which Woods replied, “we work at it.”

How much work are we talking here, Tiger?

Clearly the issues between Elin and himself are far from resolved, yet he is already back in the game of golf, set to play in the Masters two weeks from now.

Tiger Woods doesn’t play golf like you and I play golf. He doesn’t slap a few balls around on the range 10 minutes before his tee-time and ride around in a cart with a cooler stocked full of beer in the back for a couple hours once a week.

Tiger Woods spends anywhere from six to ten hours a day on the practice course, refining a skill so rare that it changed the way the very sport was revered.

That’s a hell of a lot of work. Now he says that to repair his marriage and family, it will require work?

It seems to me like the true priorities of Tiger Woods have not changed all that much.

Let’s face it: when Accenture and Gatorade withdrew their sponsorships of Woods, it didn’t exactly put him in the poor house.

You could say playing golf is an escape for Woods, but do you really expect Woods to tee it up at Augusta for the autonomy of it? If he’s playing in any tournament, it’s because he wants to win.

Put yourself in Tiger’s shoes. He’s taking one heck of a risk by playing in this tournament, even if it is within the fortified walls of Augusta National. He’s facing endless ridicule, not to mention constant pinpoint scrutiny for the duration of his stay in the competition.

Of course he plans on winning! If he doesn’t, the week will all in all be a failure for him. He’s returning to a course where he has won four times in his career in convincing fashion.

A win at the Masters would lift the pressure of the world off his shoulders, and serve as a giant “take that!” to all the critics out there that say he’s lost his luster as maybe the greatest golfer ever.

He has something to prove. If he wanted to play golf as an escape from a living hell, he’d call up a buddy or two, and hit the course every now and then to get his mind off things. Don’t expect Tiger to hack around Augusta for four days and finish in 15th, only to hear him say anything akin to “I’m very satisfied with the week I had.” It’s not coming, so don’t hold your breath.

I am glad it was Rinaldi that conducted the interview, but I can’t help but wonder what more there is to know about the nature of Tiger’s rehabilitation, his true standing with Elin, and why he thinks he can compete at the highest level of professional golf and repair a marriage that seems so irreversibly damaged at this point only a miracle would save it.

Then again, he’s made a career out of defying the odds.


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