Engaging Tiger

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THOUSAND OAKS, Cal. - Tiger Woods is spoken for. He is engaged to be married to a 23-year-old Swedish woman named Elin Nordegren.
 
Tuesday afternoon at a few minutes past noon at the picturesque Sherwood Country Club, Woods showed up wearing a blue sweater, a blue cap and white running shoes. And, for the first time in public, spoke about his pending nuptials. His voice was calm. His eyes were clear. There was a peace about him.
 
No, he didn't tell us the date of the ceremony. That remains to be determined. And no, he said when asked, he is not 'registered' yet for wedding gifts He did reveal that he received shopping help on the engagement ring from his mother, Kultida.
 
But the actual act of proposing to the woman who is now his fiance?.....well.....here are Tiger's own words on how excruciating that was:
 
'The words, 'Will you marry me?' ..... even if you say them perfectly, you can get denied......It's amazing how many things go through your mind.'
 
How long had Woods been planning to pop the question to Nordegren?
 
'Months,' he said. 'I've been very lucky to have met the right person for me. You don't want to blow it, or yip it like a two-foot putt.'
 
Nordegren has learned a lot about golf from Woods and, prior to that, serving an apprenticeship as Jesper Parnevik's nanny. Now Woods will have to study a little more about his wife-to-be's nationality.
 
'I don't know a whole lot of Swedish,' Woods confessed. 'But I'm learning.'
 
Then, with an impish grin, he added, 'Elin has taught me all the wrong phrases.'
 
So now the whole sports world will be watching. Will marriage take the edge off Woods' ferocious focus? Or will Nordegren and the prospect of a family life lessen the distractions? Will he become a better player after marriage the way Jack Nicklaus did?
 
Hitting balls on the range in the brilliant sunshine Tuesday at Sherwood was Justin Leonard. Woods' tournament, the Target World Challenge presented by Williams, will begin Thursday. Leonard has been married almost two years now. His daughter is two and half months old.
 
Leonard was asked if he had any advice for Tiger Woods, the man who is spoken for. He paused. Leonard rarely speaks without thinking carefully.
 
'Elin's been around kids,' Leonard said. 'Tiger can baby-sit for us any time he wants.....as long as he brings Elin around.'
 
Leonard went back to hitting golf balls and thinking about what to get his daughter for her first Christmas. 'Maybe a portable DVD player,' he said. 'For when we're all together on the road. Or maybe I'll get the tools out and make something with my hands.'
 
Tiger Woods has a lot to look back on. Now he has even more to look forward to.
 
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