Tiger Woods, in full damage-control mode, was more open than during his ultra-guarded past when answering questions in two five-minute national-TV interviews Sunday. For instance, we never heard him say this before: “I was living a life of a lie.” Or this: He’s nervous about the reaction he’ll get from Masters patrons. But he was far from an open book, and we can expect that he never will be.
Woods pledged to be a better person, a born-again Buddhist, not a faucet of revelations. Charles Barkley, he never will be. It’s not in his DNA.
So if you want inside details of what has transpired in his life and what’s going on now behind his curtain, you’re not going to be served freely by Woods. If you so desire, you’ll be frustrated. You’ll have to lean on TMZ and the tabloids and former side dishes for that. Woods might be kinder and gentler moving forward, but gut-spilling on specifics hardly appears to be in his bag.
Woods talked on the Golf Channel and ESPN with tired eyes and apparently a heavy heart. He answered questions for the first time since his Thanksgiving car accident led to revelations of multiple affairs. That’s progress.
He wasn’t defiant as he was in his 14-minute statement Feb. 19 on international television. That was the main difference between his two public addresses.
He was cordial and calm, much more composed this time. He didn’t harp on the news media and reports that have irked him, as he did a month earlier. His apology this time didn’t include a “but.” That’s progress.
But as with his February statement, Woods exercised control in those TV interviews. He decided the venue, the news outlets and the time limit. He lost control of his personal life during the holidays, what with all those secret affairs leaking, but he has made it clear he doesn’t want to lose control of information that flows from him.
He was guarded during the Q&As, answering in generalities. His basic message was that he’s sorry he hurt so many people and that he intends to improve.
Five-minute interviews are that way. They make not only for general questions, but general answers. They limit follow-up inquiries. They limit the chance of culling details. How many details he provides in coming weeks is anyone’s guess, but don’t expect a flood. Expect more general contrition.
If he acts out his road map for transformation, he’ll evolve. But the shift from selfishness to selflessness is no easy task. Stated intentions are a start. Woods said his goal is to “live a life of amends.” Forty-five days of inpatient rehabilitation, he said, stripped him of “denial and rationalization.” Stripping that away, he offered, reveals the truth of who you are.
He avoided giving direct answers to several questions. But going public helped pave his way to playing golf again, helped take some pressure off. It was a step forward from a sordid past. It did Woods more good than it did the public; the world’s most famous and guarded athlete doesn’t volunteer one-on-one interviews unless he’s going to benefit. Any measure of closure figures to aid his golf performance.
A well-prepared Woods made it clear that any questions about what happened on Thanksgiving will be deflected with “it’s all in the police report.” Of course, it isn’t.
He made it clear that any questions about his relationship with wife Elin will be answered with “that’s private between Elin and me.”
In the ESPN interview in particular, he sidestepped a stream of questions. Asked about the depths of his infidelity, he deflected with, “Just one is enough.” Asked what kind of treatment he is receiving, he deflected with “that’s a private matter as well.” Asked why he didn’t receive treatment before the scandal broke, he said something you wouldn’t expect from a smart, Stanford-educated man: “I didn’t know I was that bad.” He didn’t answer what would constitute success at Augusta.
On the Golf Channel, Woods said no one in his camp knew what was going on with his transgressions, though it has been widely reported that the president of his design group was involved. He gave a non-answer when asked how he crashed his car. And he didn’t give an idea of how much and where he might play this year.
In other words, he cordially drew a line in the sand. He put down boundaries. Some don’t like that; some don’t care.
As golfers, we need him in the game, doing his awe-inspiring acts. As evolved human beings, we should be careful not to judge and be willing to forgive and wish the best for anyone.
As he said, his actions, not words, will be proof of transformation. And through generous actions Woods has a chance to be a real hero this time. He can do that by giving more of his time to people. By getting involved charitably in his community. By signing more autographs. By playing all the PGA Tour events that he has never played.
Nothing would flip his image more than this kind of pronouncement from him: “I know I’ve been selfish, but that’s in the past. I’m going barnstorming and taking it to the people, and I’m going to play all the events I’ve skipped over the years and reach out.”
Giving and gratitude are always the best routes to happiness and fulfillment.
In the meantime, enjoy his remarkable golf. That’s always been his gift to us. For many, that’s enough.
Jeff Rude’s “Hate To Be Rude” column appears on Golfweek.com on Wednesday, the same day as his video show of the same name.