A rare glimpse at the man, not the golfer

Tiger Woods hugs his mother, Kultida, after making his statement.

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Was Tiger Woods’ apology sincere?

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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Tiger Woods said Friday that one day he will get back to golf. Right now, he’s much more focused on getting back to life. 

Fourteen minutes is about the amount of time it might normally take Woods to play the opening par-4 hole at TPC Sawgrass, the lavish gem stationed outside PGA Tour headquarters where, in better days, Woods has donned the champion’s crown. 

Instead, late Friday morning upstairs in the clubhouse at TPC Sawgrass, Tiger’s 14 minutes of fame were far more pivotal and impactful in determining the road that awaits him. He was contrite, repentant, remorseful, apologetic. At times he seemed emotional, and at times he was very businesslike, standing there in a blue blazer and open collar talking like a politician trying to earn a swing vote. 

Since childhood, this magician on turf has been judged simply for the way he played a game, and for the two-digit number he put up at the end of a day. Tiger Woods, golfer. And now, as he stepped in front of friends and family, including his proud Thai mom, Tida, in an “intimate” setting broadcast across the globe, his life took a far different turn. 

The Tiger who would be king was humbled. He now must stand up and be counted and judged as Tiger Woods, human being. 

Let’s face it: All of us who walk this Earth are flawed. Yet not everyone has to stand in front of a camera and admit one’s human frailties. Woods, sports’ first billionaire athlete, appeared to be a man stripped of many things standing up at that podium, most notably his dignity. 

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Tiger Woods during Friday's statement.

He talked about his charmed life allowing him to live by different rules. He talked about being unfaithful, foolish, irresponsible and selfish. He talked about the many friends and family members he has let down. He earmarked a special apology to parents whose children had positioned Woods so highly as a life role model, a passage that resonated deeply with PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, seated in his front row. 

“I brought this shame on myself,” Woods would say. “I hurt my wife, my kids, my mother, my wife’s family, my friends, my foundation, and kids all around the world who admired me.

“I’ve had a lot of time to think about what I have done ... It’s up to me to start living a life of integrity.”

As for the golf, well, we still don’t know when we’ll see Tiger Woods. Listening to him speak, it really didn’t seem to matter. More important things are on his plate than Bay Hill, the Masters and all of Jack’s marks. He’s trying to save a family, if that’s even possible. 

We live in a world where everyone is a critic, and certainly there was no shortage of opinions being bantered in a ballroom filled with a few hundred media from around the globe a mile away from the TPC clubhouse where Woods spoke. Some bought into Woods’ speech, calling it absolutely brilliant. Others found it too stiff, too scripted. A news man seated near me from the Times of London gave it “a 2 out of 10.” Some thought not enough of his speech seemed to come from the heart. 

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Really, who is to say whether or not all those words came from the very bottom of Woods’ heart, or can feel the real emotions that were churning inside? One man knows, in all honesty. The same man who made many apologies on Friday, yet realizes his actions in the days, months and years to follow will be what will define the effectiveness of the thoughts he conveyed on this surreal morning. 

As comebacks go, this was a start. Fourteen minutes of talk, which resulted in two pages of scripted words. As Woods’ news conferences go – Finchem noted Woods has done more than 1,100 of them at 249 tournaments – this one was quite different. 

Was it what we all needed to hear? Who’s to really say? It certainly was far more personable than posting a message on his own Web site.

In the end, Elin Woods, the wife who was praised by her husband and notably absent, relayed the most poignant thought. She has told her out-of-control husband that his real apology to her will be delivered not in words, but in his actions over time.

Woods talked about owing it to his family to be a better person, and owing it to those closest to him to be a better man. Frankly, we all should strive to achieve such goals. We also should collectively hope Tiger Woods the person, not Tiger Woods the golfer, can pull off the most incredible recovery shot of his life.

Friday was the first step, and the road from here will be quite interesting to follow.

For that, we’re all going to require far more than 14 minutes. 

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