Breaking a silence that stretches back to a Nov. 27 car accident that ignited revelations of infidelity and a tabloid media frenzy, Tiger Woods answered questions from Golf Channel’s Kelly Tilghman just six days after the world No. 1 announced he will return to competitive golf at next month’s Masters.
The six-minute interview – the first time Woods has taken questions since crashing his SUV into a fire hydrant – featured 13 questions and, finally, some answers.
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From his 45 days of therapy and his tarnished legacy to how Woods plans to explain his actions to his children, the interview covered a lot of ground, but none more telling than Woods’ answer when asked how he feels to have been transformed from the game’s greatest player to a “punch line?”
“It was hurtful, but then again I did it,” Woods said. “Looking back now with a more clear head I get it. I understand why people would say those things because, you know what, it was disgusting behavior. It’s hard to believe that was me, looking back on it now.”
Much like his earlier statements and his first public appearance since the crash last month at TPC Sawgrass, Woods maintained a rigid distinction between his public and private life, particularly when asked what happened between he and his wife, Elin, on Nov. 27?
“It’s all in the police report. There’s a lot of stuff between Elin and I that will remain private,” Woods said. “I wasn’t going very fast but unfortunately I hit a few things.”
There was, however, a greater sense of contrition, particularly for a man that doesn’t do humble.
Asked how a golfer who prides himself on control between the ropes was so easily led astray off the golf course.
“I don’t know. Now I know. It was part of my therapy and treatment. For 45 days you learn a lot, you strip away the denial, rationalization and you come to the truth and the truth is very painful at times,” Woods said. “To stare at yourself and look at the person you’ve become. You become disgusting.”
Woods also was asked how his father, Earl, who died in 2006, would have reacted to his actions?
“He’d be very disappointed in me. We’d have numerous long talks and that’s one of the things I miss,” Woods said. “I wish I could have had his guidance through all this, to have him help straighten me up. I know he would have done it.”
Instead Woods has a team that seems to finally be playing offense after months of defensive, and divisive, actions. Unlike his Dec. 2, 2009, press release, a five-paragraph missive that spent more time barking at the media (three paragraphs) than apologizing for his actions (two), Woods’ Q&A on Sunday had the look and feel of a man who has undergone 45-days of inpatient therapy and who is trying, in his words, “to become a better person.”
Although there has been no official confirmation from Camp Tiger, Sunday’s sit down had Ari Fleischer’s fingerprints all over it – a public mea culpa followed by an intense media blitz. If the former White House press secretary holds to script expect Woods to stand and deliver in front an even more relentless media audience in the coming weeks, perhaps even before he wheels down Magnolia Lane.
The questions will get harder, particularly over his connection with a Canadian doctor who is being investigated by authorities in the United States and Canada for prescribing performance-enhancing drugs.
Of course Woods can change the subject, not with his words but with his actions. Solid play next month at Augusta National will do more to help Woods’ tattered public image than an army of publicist ever could. And if there were a moment of true clarity during his six-minute sit down it came when Tilghman asked why he picked the Masters for his comeback?
“It’s time to get back and play,” Woods said, who also added he remains unsure of his schedule the remainder of the year. “I miss the game. I miss competing. I wanted to play (the Arnold Palmer Invitational) but I just wasn’t ready, but I’m starting to get my feel back. I know how to play (Augusta National). That helps a lot. I just have to play it.”
And maybe that was the most important message, at least for now. It’s time.