Tiger keeping the door closed

Dan Wetzel
Yahoo! SportsDecember 12, 2009

From the start Tiger Woods has tried to handle this enormous scandal as far from the public eye as possible. No public appearances. No interviews – with cops and journalists alike. No spokespeople or surrogates making excuses. No Oprah's couch.

None of it is a surprise. Woods was big on privacy when things were going good. Some of it was to keep the public out of his personal life. Some of it, obviously, was to keep one part of his personal life away from the other part.

Whatever it was, there never has been a need for public emoting – not after his father died, not after his children were born and, most certainly, not after his entire life derailed following an early morning, Thanksgiving weekend car wreck that set off a frenzy like few others.

So it's of little surprise that Woods will step away from the PGA Tour for an unspecified time to work on fixing his family life.

"After much soul searching, I have decided to take an indefinite break from professional golf," Woods said in a statement on his website. "I need to focus my attention on being a better husband, father, and person."

It's a luxury he has – he'll be able to knock out the mortgages regardless. Thus it's a luxury he'll take, no need to deal with the public, press and golf gallery insults any sooner than necessary.

Even in good times, Woods wouldn't have played in a PGA event until late January outside San Diego. Now, who knows?

While it's almost impossible to imagine he'd skip The Masters in April due to his fanatical pursuit of Jack Nicklaus' 18 major championships, three weeks ago it would've been impossible to imagine this was about to transpire.

The best guess on Woods' return is late March, at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in his hometown of Orlando. Maybe Arnie can provide some PR cover, the sports world will be at least a little distracted by the NCAA basketball tournament, and Tiger can try to tune up for the Masters two weeks later. He can commute from home, and he's won the thing six times, including the last two years.

Eventually, he’ll return. In the meantime, he says he's focused on family.

"I am deeply aware of the disappointment and hurt that my infidelity has caused to so many people, most of all my wife and children," the statement said. "I want to say again to everyone that I am profoundly sorry and that I ask forgiveness. It may not be possible to repair the damage I've done, but I want to do my best to try."

So this is Tiger. He'll do his thing on his terms. The public will accept it. No matter how many cries there are for him to go on television for some scripted mea culpa that never was the best approach. He's a golfer, not a politician or minister.

Why would Tiger doing something phony make anyone start trusting him? Why would he do something completely out of character to prove his character?

No, this is the real Tiger, focused inward on the task at hand, still unconcerned about what everyone else is demanding. He always has played by his rules. He hasn't changed yet.

Compare it to Kobe Bryant in the wake of a 2003 allegation of sexual assault in a Colorado hotel room. Bryant wasn't just fighting to save his marriage; he was fighting to save his freedom. The stakes were higher.

Yet Kobe quickly held a press conference to admit his mistakes, apologize to his wife and family and declare his innocence. He missed almost no time during the scandal. He used a private plane to fly to and from Colorado for court proceedings, sometimes arriving just minutes before tipoff of a game. Night after night, he walked into arenas full of 20,000 people and dealt with the hecklers, reporters and occasional protests.

For Bryant, basketball was his refuge; work was an exercise that allowed him to put his personal troubles behind him. He wanted to face it head on.

"Out here, I can just play," he said often.

Woods sees it differently, which is his right and re-emphasizes the ridiculousness of cookie-cutter crisis management advice. Bryant was able to play at a high level, reminding fans why they liked him in the first place.

Woods wants the door to remain closed. He wants to use his life to forget about golf, not vice versa.

What he's like when he finally emerges will be the next chapter of this story. Other than the entertainment derived from watching the rich and famous fall, there's little use to the daily grind of gossip. Tiger Woods was a serial cheater. We got it.

For the golf world, the question isn't what happened off the course but what will happen on it. If he stays married, he presumably lives a quiet life. Without the carousing and distractions, is he more focused on practice and professionalism?

Or will the stress from marital troubles that likely won't wane soon prove too much mentally for him to sustain his excellence?

If he winds up divorced, how does he react, both in action and mind?

Turns out we're going to have to wait to find out. Tiger still isn't revealing anything. It's closed doors, still. It's a private matter, as always.

He couldn't have made a move more true to his personality.