Tiger Woods has had few public missteps in his career.
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
By Michael Bamberger
Monday, November 30, 2009

If Tiger Woods is true to form he'll say the absolute minimum publicly. The analysis of the police report and the release of the conversations contained on the 911 calls will run their course, but it's hard to imagine Woods offering spin or answering intrusive questions. \n

He's never been open, and now even the Florida police are finding that out. What's going to suddenly change him? He'll do whatever he has to do to protect his privacy and his family. His "brand" is the last thing on his mind now.

\n He's never made any claims to sainthood. He never claimed to know God better than you or me, never claimed to be leading a perfect life. Now we know he's not perfect. First, he coughed up a lead and lost to Y.E. Yang at the PGA Championship in August. Then, at half past two in the morning, he ran over a fire hydrant in his neighbor's yard. Tiger's human. Welcome to the club, guy.

\n The National Enquirer has a photograph of a woman, Rachel Uchitel, checking into the same hotel, the Crown Towers in Melbourne, where Tiger was staying — with his mother — during the Australian Masters in mid-November. The Enquirer has a source saying that Uchitel, a New York club promoter, and Woods were having an affair. Uchitel says she has met Woods but is not having an affair with him. Of course it's titillating. That's why the Enquirer spent good money chasing the story. It's also just more prurient crap in a world that's swimming in it. How can Woods win in a game with no rules? He can't.

By Thanksgiving, there were reports on various websites devoted to the impending Enquirer story. Could that development have led to tension in the Tiger Woods home at Isleworth? Maybe. Could it have resulted in Tiger leaving the house — which he shares with his wife of five years, Elin Nordegren, and their two young children — at half-past two on Friday morning? Maybe. And if you add up all these maybes, what do you have? A million gigabits of nothing, not without Tiger or Elin talking. And they won't. They'll be looking out for Sam and Charlie.

\n In time, this will look like nothing. Look at Kobe Bryant, once accused of rape. But he took a deep breath in front of a microphone, gave one impressive mea culpa, helped the Lakers win a championship and resumed his place in the sporting kingdom. When Michael Jordan was playing for the Bulls, he had a longtime mistress. Did the public care? No. All Tiger has done, that we really know, is run over a hydrant and hurt himself along the way. Please.

\n He's been described in various stories over the weekend as the most famous athlete in the world, and maybe he is, but he's not the most beloved. A charm offensive from Woods wouldn't likely work here anyhow. Charm is not his strong suit. Besides, there's no great reservoir of good will stored up in Tiger's favor among mainstream reporters from TV, print and the web. I think what he has is what he wants, respect and admiration for how he goes about his business. And his business, he's always made abundantly clear, is what he does on the course. That might be his saving grace, right about now.

\n Jack Nicklaus, wise in his own way, has said for years that the biggest obstacle Woods faces in his quest to break Nicklaus's record of 18 major championships is the pressure that comes from being famous in America in the 21st century, of being watched and recorded and dissected all the time. A famous athlete running over a hydrant and requiring emergency medical help in the middle of the night is legitimate news. But does it warrant sending up helicopters with photographers packing long lenses trying to get a snap of ... what exactly?

\n Hold it, something's coming into view here. It's Tiger, with a single Band-Aid on his left cheek, left facial cheek to be more precise, looking rather like Nelly, holding up his right hand to the sky and extending a finger. It looks like-it is! It's his mid- ...

\n When Tiger was a Tour rookie, a GQ profile had Tiger telling racy jokes. He didn't like it and from that day forward we saw less of his inner life. From this day forward, the clamps will get only tighter. He has 14 majors and $500 million, or whatever it is, in the bank. What does he need from us?

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