I hadn’t seen Tiger in person since we were together at an EA Sports launch party in September. I had no idea what to expect. When he turned into the room and looked at me, a warm smile came over his face. I was happy to see that. It indicated that he is in a good place. As we put on our microphones, we had a few small conversations. He said he hadn’t been watching much golf. He expressed that he couldn’t wait to get back to the golf course. He said that with vigor and passion. You could tell how much he has missed it. He said he’d been hitting the gym hard. It has always been a sanctuary for this man. He looked trim and incredibly fit. All in all, he seemed in good spirits and he had a gentle look in his eyes. It was not the vicious competitor that could easily look through you at times. This was a man who was in touch with his heart.
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We began the interview with the simple question of how he, who has controlled everything so tightly his entire life, could let things get so out of control. His answer was honest and contrite. It became obvious to me after a few questions about the night of the accident and his marriage that he was determined to protect those details of his private life. But I could also sense that he wanted to share the pain that he’d been feeling for months. Woods wants the world to know that he’s sorry. He is clearly speaking the language of therapy and it is something he’s prepared to embrace for the rest of his life. I asked him if the therapy that he’s received is similar to an Alcoholics Anonymous program and he said it’s exactly like it. He added that he will be in inpatient and outpatient therapy for years to come, maybe forever.
When you cover an athlete for the better part of 15 years, you get to know everything about his appearance. Before the interview started, I couldn’t help but notice a bracelet he was wearing. I asked him about it. He said it was a reminder of Buddhist principle. He first put it on right before he entered 45 days of therapy in late December. He’ll be wearing it at the Masters and likely for the rest of his life.
I did see the old Tiger emerge when we spoke of him getting back to the golf course. He is hungry for competition. Like the gym, the golf course is a sanctuary for him. That will never change. Tiger admitted that he’s nervous about how the galleries will receive him at the Masters but he’s excited about reuniting with his colleagues and soaking up the memories of his wins there in years past. His mental state might be in question when he tees it up at Augusta National, but physically he’s doing all he can do to assure that he’s prepared.