Tiger Woods finally faces the music Friday.

He should have fronted the cameras 100 days ago instead of hiding behind polemics on privacy posted on his Web site, but I'm told he spent a lot of time in the fetal position after his secret life became a public scandal. He wasn't ready to address any of it -- but he is now .

Fair enough. He deserves his chance.

But this will be no walk in the park for Woods and nor should it be. He can't just go through the motions at his first public appearance since being embroiled in a sex scandal in late November. Mouthing the right words won't be enough.

How he handles this moment of truth will come to define him. It will be just as important as dropping that putt at Torrey Pines two years ago, or winning the '97 Masters or the Open at Pebble Beach by 15 shots.

For this will be the moment where people will make their minds up about who Tiger Woods will be to them from here on out.

And, be sure, people will have their bullshit meters at the ready. Tiger doesn't need to be convincing, for this isn't a role requiring acting or good delivery of lines crafted by spin doctors. He just needs to be honest. People respect honesty, especially when it's an unpalatable truth.

The story he needs to tell isn't a pretty one but he needs to tell it nonetheless. To quote that great sage, Eminem: "You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow; This opportunity comes once in a lifetime, yo."

If there's one piece of advice Tiger needs to hear before he stands up Friday morning to read his statement, it is this: tell it like it is, warts'n'all, and don't leave anything out.

The only mistake Woods can make is to try to minimize or justify his flaws. Because be sure the tabloid media will be digging like the ferrets they are to expose any lie or even half-truth and then whatever goodwill Woods had will be lost.

People might be willing to give him a second chance but no one gets a third.

And before you moral anarchists begin crafting a 'Who cares what anyone thinks of Tiger's behavior?' rant to me, let me spare you the bother. I'll answer the question for you: Tiger Woods cares.

If he didn't care, if he was filled with piss and vinegar about how he's been treated, he'd simply show up at a tournament somewhere, cash the winner's check and pull a Vijay Singh, who famously slammed the trunk of his car after winning the Masters and declared everyone could "kiss my black ass."

Woods wouldn't be going through this dog-and-pony show of making a public apology in front of the cameras with his mother, Tida, among other family, friends and associates in the audience.

And I can assure you that his agent, Mark Steinberg, who's no one's idea of a touchy-feely sentimentalist, wouldn't be saying things like Tiger "recognizes that he has hurt and let down a lot of other people who were close to him (and) also let down his fans."

Tiger, Steinberg says, "wants to begin the process of making amends and that's what he's going to discuss."

In other words, Tiger Woods wants to be forgiven. More to the point, I'm hoping he wants to earn that forgiveness.

I know the cynical will roll their eyes and say he just wants his $50 million a year in lost sponsorship dollars back. Maybe he does, though I can tell you that he loathes giving the pound of flesh he's expected to exchange for that money.

I know him to be a decent guy -- marital infidelities notwithstanding -- who's been hurt by his own hubris and arrogance. I'm hoping he sees that. I'm hoping that he sees that he got caught up in a world where no one would dare tell him he couldn't have whatever he wanted.

He's not the first man to fall short in a world in which he's the king, but I hope he sees that is no excuse.

Woods has had to pay a steep price for his cheating; we may never know just how steep.

But he's got a unique opportunity Friday morning in Jacksonville to show the world what he's about. I don't mean Tiger Woods: The Golfer or Tiger Woods: The Brand, but Tiger Woods: the man, whoever he really is.

Whether ultimately that's enough is up to each of us to decide.

But he at least needs to give us a reason to think.