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No chance for privacy now for Tiger Woods

Apart from occasional erratic driving and a sharp tongue, Tiger Woods has displayed masterful control on the golf course on the way to 14 major titles and a place in the pantheon of sporting greats. His well publicised poor drive outside his Florida home last week, however, was a very different matter and the world number one’s privacy, controlled meticulously for more than a decade, has unravelled in just a few days.

Woods’s carefully managed life has been thrust into the public domain and become the subject of intense media speculation since he mysteriously crashed his car into a fire hydrant and a tree while pulling out of his driveway.

His delay in issuing any statement, his refusal to speak to the investigating authorities for three days in a row and mounting allegations he had extra-marital relationships finally led to him making a public apology to his family on Wednesday.

Woods, who has had two children with his Swedish wife Elin Nordegren since they married in 2004, said in a statement on his website: “I have not been true to my values and the behaviour my family deserves.

“I have let my family down and I regret those transgressions with all of my heart. I am dealing with my behaviour and personal failings behind closed doors with my family. Those feelings should be shared by us alone.”

Woods is unlikely to have even considered issuing such a statement a few days ago.

Since turning professional in late 1996 with the memorable greeting of “Hello World”, he has hardly missed a trick in keeping his private life to himself and separate from his glittering on-course achievements.

A role model for countless people around the world because of his supreme golf talent and Afro-American-Asian background, Woods has been placed on a virtual pedestal of perfection.

That all changed in dramatic fashion, though, when his Cadillac SUV effectively missed the fairway in the early hours of Friday morning.

Controlling life outside the golf course in a world which thrives on perpetual media coverage, blogs and twitter feeds has ultimately foiled even the fastidious Woods.

Although the Florida Highway Patrol has closed its investigation and issued a traffic ticket for careless driving, Woods has had to issue three statements in the last four days when his preference would have been to stay quiet.

“If Tiger Woods was down on the (lower) end of the order of merit, this wouldn’t be a story,” three-times major winner Padraig Harrington told reporters in the build-up to this week’s Chevron World Challenge.

“If he was not the number one sports star in the world, there wouldn’t be a story … I don’t think anybody is ever going to know exactly what’s gone on, and that’s probably a good thing.

“But it won’t stop people from guessing and questioning. That’s human nature. We all have to accept that that’s what we’re like as people. We’re intrigued by other people’s lives.”

The greatest golfer of his era and one of the world’s most recognisable figures, Woods has frequently said anonymity is one of the things he misses most from his days as a student.

It is no coincidence that he named his luxury yacht Privacy. When asked several years ago why he enjoyed scuba diving so much, he replied: “The fish don’t know who I am.”

While Woods can hardly slip away into the ocean depths to find a permanent escape from media attention, he is likely to remain off the public radar for at least the next two months.

In all probability, he will return to the PGA Tour for the Jan. 28-31 Century Club of San Diego Invitational at Torrey Pines, one of his favourite courses on the U.S. circuit. If he does, he will certainly find scores of media lying in wait.


December 3 , 2009

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