April 8, 2010 at 9:12 a.m.
Tiger Woods will finally be back doing what he does best; crushing drives straight down the fairway, sinking seemingly unsinkable putts, chipping within feet of the yellow flagstick blowing in the breeze, scowling at any who might try to get in his way. It's the Woods that everyone has grown accustomed to over the last 14 years. It's the Woods that we know. But it's the Woods that not many love any more.
His return will come in Augusta, GA, at the Masters Tournament, where he became so famous in 1997. That year, as a 21-year-old who could just freshly take a celebratory sip of champagne, Woods took the Masters by storm, winning by an unheard of 12 strokes over his closest competitor. That was the tournament that Tiger Woods basically announced he was going to be the best golfer of a generation, and perhaps ever. This Masters could be the one that Woods puts a stamp of authority on his greatness. This could be the Masters that he's most known for, not that 1997 domination.
Woods' hiatus this time wasn't because of injury or illness. Unless you've just come out from underground hiding since Thanksgiving, it's well-known that Woods cheated on his wife. He not only cheated on her once, but numerous times. It was so bad for him that he had to check into sex addiction rehab clinic after all of the revelations.
The rest has been history. Woods' silence on the issue for months afterwards, only breaking it to admit things through his official Web site. He then had a 13-minute press conference in which he talked, but didn't listen. He refused to take any questions from the media following his speech. He then set up two five-minute interviews with ESPN and The Golf Channel, again talking some, but leaving out a majority of the details surrounding what people really want to know about the situation.
Everyone is bellyaching that Woods isn't being open enough about the situation. That he is leaving everyone in the dark, and thus losing more fans. He is like a recluse who won't come out of his backwoods shanty unless it's for food and water.
Here's the problem, Woods doesn't owe an explanation to any of us. He doesn't owe it to the media, to his fans, to anyone except his wife and two children. Just because his chosen profession is a very public one, it doesn't mean his personal life also needs to be. It's called a personal life for a reason. Is he not allowed privacy? Is he not allowed the same decency that we would all expect in a similar situation. If your Average Joe cheated on his wife, would he want the local news scurrying to his doorstep and asking him questions and telling him to explain himself to the public? No.
Do the same rules apply to Woods simply because he chose a profession that is under the public microscope?
If he did something on the golf course that was worth punishing, it would make sense for him to come completely clean and explain why he did it and his reasoning for it. But none of his transgressions had anything to do with the sport he plays, or if you want to compare it to the Average Joe, none of his problems were ever at his job.
Was he wrong in doing what he did? Absolutely. But does anybody besides his wife and kids need, or deserve, details of what happened? No. But the sharks circling Woods smell the blood. They sense the fear, and they are waiting to pounce on him if he makes one wrong misstep. His wife isn't going to attend the Masters this weekend? Her absence will be picked apart for this reason and that, and it will all bounce back unfairly to Woods.
Things will never be the same for Woods, and should they ever be the same in his personal life with his wife and family? No. What he did was a disgusting act of selfishness and dishonesty. He deserves to be punished by his family. But he doesn't deserve to be punished by the PGA, by his sponsors or by his fans. I watch Tiger Woods because he is a phenomenal golfer. I don't watch Tiger Woods for any other reason than to be entertained by his preposterous set of unique skills.
And anyone who says there are young children who looked up to Woods as a role model needs a reality check anyway. Anyone who let their child look up to Woods pre-scandal didn't really ever watch Woods. Between the fist pumps and emotional hugs, he routinely threw tantrums after a bad shot or after a slight peep by someone in the gallery. He sent his bully of a caddie Steve Williams to take care of his dirty work when someone would so much as think of taking a picture of him, and he cursed up and down the course if things weren't going his way. Sure, he had plenty of memorable shots and tournaments that you can show your children as special moments, but anyone who highlighted Tiger Woods as an all-around role model even before his trouble was misguided anyway.
A lot of people are going to tune into the Masters this weekend to see how Woods does with all the pressure around him. Most will be curious viewers who would never tune into golf anyway, but some will be tuning in to watch Woods what he does best: play golf. I don't care about all the shenanigans surrounding him. All I want to know is if the guy will come back as strong as he was before this whole mess. I can only hope not having those lies weighing his mind down that he'll be an even better golfer, because when Woods is on point, it's like watching a snarling, angry wolf track down a helpless deer.
Nobody should care about all the extra curricular activity surrounding Woods. People only know of Woods because of his golfing prowess, but that has quickly shifted to knowing him as the cheating infidel because of something he did off the course and that's not right.
I believe Woods will be better than ever after this comeback. Maybe not this weekend since he'll be rusty with all the time off and distractions, but as people start to remember Woods as the great golfer, and not the cheater, he'll be back on top faster than you can say unfaithful.
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