Woods did what he had to do

Published March 22, 2010

| FoxSports

He wants us to move past the recriminations and to look ahead to Tiger Woods 2.0.

His life's basically a train wreck, his marriage on life support, so it's understandable he wants our eyeballs back on golf, where he's much more in control, and away from the sexting of Joslyn James and whatever other humiliations lurk around the corner from women he's scorned (and won't pay).

Woods had to do two things before the Masters. The first, in deference to both Augusta National and his fellow players, was to sit in front of the cameras and answer questions so the year's first major wouldn't degenerate into a complete circus, and the other was to get rid of Ari Fleischer.

He killed two birds on the same day.

In ESPN's Tom Rinaldi and the Golf Channel's Kelly Tilghman, Woods chose interviewers with whom he's both familiar and comfortable. Not that they soft-balled him, because they didn't. They asked the tough questions, even if Woods wasn't answering all of them.

But 100 days after his world fell apart, Woods signaled he was ready to reclaim his life, or at least begin a new one.

He set the tone by dressing like Tiger Woods again. And what a difference a hat makes. It's been so long since we've seen the Tiger we knew, or at least thought we knew.

The contrast in clothes couldn't have been starker to the funereal suit and blue business shirt he wore during his February apology. That may have been appropriate then, but it was as if Woods understood that now he couldn't send Clark Kent to do Superman's job.

Meanwhile, the controversial spin doctor Fleischer, I'm reliably informed, has left Team Tiger. I was told that George W. Bush's first White House press secretary fell on his sword because he felt he was becoming the story. No kidding, Ari.

The reality is that Fleischer had to leave because his very presence gave the impression that Woods was being stage-managed in his return to the public eye.

Fleischer's legacy, whether fairly or not, remains propagating Bush/Cheney myths -- like Saddam Hussein attacked America on Sept. 11, 2001 -- which Americans don't want to hear.

Having him in behind the curtain gave the impression Woods had something to hide, and that words were being fed to him.

While Sunday's appearances were a good first step, where Woods and his handlers went wrong was in limiting the interviews to five minutes.

Where did he have to go? The world has anxiously waited for these interviews since Nov. 28. He should've given both interviewers more time so the exercise wasn't so rushed and there was time for follow-ups.

Woods, who's never been particularly fond or -- or good at -- introspection done publicly, made a decent attempt at answering, though he clearly was driven by a handful of "talking points."

I've always found his repetitiousness off-putting though for all the years I've known him, he's always insisted on making the same point over and over, often regardless of the question he's asked.

It was obvious which messages he wanted to get out Sunday.

that he'd spent 45 days in inpatient treatment that he wouldn't discuss the events of last Thanksgiving night, when he crashed his SUV pulling out of his driveway because they were documented "in the police report" that he'd be "living a life of amends" from now on that he'd "gotten away from (his) core values", particularly Buddhism that it was difficult "stripping away" the denial he'd been living and confronting the "horrible" person he'd become, and: that he was "excited" to be returning to golf but that he'd need more therapy. I still don't understand the big mystery over the events of Thanksgiving night. Husbands and wives argue all the time and sometimes a spouse exits the house in a huff. Why not just say that if that's how it happened? My guess is that his lawyers don't want him contradicting anything already given to the police.

And why did he call the treatment he'd been receiving "a private matter"? Are we to believe he went to a sex addiction clinic in the boonies of Mississippi to treat an eating disorder? It's not like the revelation that he was being treated for sex addiction could cause any further embarrassment, not after James released those text messages.

I applaud Woods for not throwing anyone around him under the bus, but it's just not true to say no one within his team knew of his flings. Steve Williams I believe didn't know, probably because he and his wife, Kirsty, were close with Elin.

But someone cut the deal in with the National Enquirer in 2007 to bury a story about Woods' adultery in return for a cover story with stablemate Men's Fitness magazine. And who bought plane tickets for these women and booked their hotel rooms?

It's clear that Woods doesn't want anyone to pay for his indiscretions, though if his wife stays in their marriage -- and that is far from certain, I'm told -- that's going to lead to an awkward staff Christmas party.

Overall, Woods did what he had to do. When he spoke of self-loathing, it seemed uncomfortably genuine.

"You strip away the denial, the rationalization and you come to the truth and the truth is very painful at times and to stare at yourself and look at the person you've become ... you become disgusted," he said.

He answered, too, a question I've been wanting to ask him.

Why did he ever get married?

"Why? Because I loved her," he told Rinaldi. "I loved Elin with everything I have. And that's something that makes me feel even worse, that I did this to someone I loved that much.

"She was hurt, she was hurt. Very hurt. Shocked. Angry."

It's taken more than 100 days but Woods finally got out in front of the story, something he should've done long ago.

But even though he spoke of dark things, his message Sunday was also one of the hope of redemption.

"The strength that I feel now," he said of having faced his demons, "I've never felt that type of strength."

I have the feeling he's going to need need every ounce.

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