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True Confessions

Ireland's top golf writer assesses Tiger Woods very public apology.

Posted Feb 22, 2010 by Dermot Gilleece

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With his very public act of contrition behind him, Tiger Woods has succeeded in leaving us actually more confused as to his likely return to competition than we were before the events of last Friday.  The thought struck me on receiving a phone call in Tucson from a friend who seemed supremely confident of making a major, financial killing, based on the inside information I would supply from my sojourn in the US.

Woods was 9/2 against to compete in the upcoming US Masters and a predictably shorter 7/2 for the Open Championship at St Andrews in July.  How much should my friend wager?  Before arriving in the US last week, I would probably have advised him to slap down everything he could lay his hands on.  Now, I'm a lot less sure.

I never imagined myself using these words, but Woods looked like a broken man during that one-sided press conference at Sawgrass.   His vulnerable, uncertain demeanour was a world away from the player I had come to associate with arrogant invincibility since first setting eyes on him during the 1995 Scottish Open at Carnoustie, where he played as an amateur.  It was by way of a familiarisation process prior to representing his country in the Walker Cup at Royal Porthcawl that September.

Yet this assessment of the world number one is at serious odds with that of other observers who saw Friday's conference as no more than a cleverly stage-managed con-trick.  How could this be?  Perhaps opinions have been coloured by all that has gone before, as in the Machiavellian machinations of Woods's manager, Mark Steinberg.  Since the events of November 27th last, outside the Woods home in Isleworth, Florida, disclosures from Steinberg have not enhanced his status as a communicator, especially with the golfing media.  As a consequence, disenchanted observers have opted not to take Woods at face value, but rather to speculate on some ulterior motive by his management team.

For my own part, I believe what I have seen of the player and what I have heard in his apology.  That is why I find it extremely difficult to form a confident view as to when he might return to competitive action.  Prior to Friday, I imagined him simply biding his time for a suitable environment for a come-back, possibly in next month's Tavistock Cup matches between Isleworth and Lake Nona, which is effectively held behind closed doors.  Indeed this two-day event has been described as the only golf tournament where the spectators are richer than the players.  Then there would probably be an appearance at Bay Hill later that week as a build-up to the Masters.

Such thoughts underwent some dramatic revision, however, when I watched the "Larry King Live" television show in Tucson last Friday night.  The entire hour was given over to a discussion on Woods and his statement from earlier that day.  Among the show's panellists was Dr Drew Pinsky, an American expert on addiction.  His initial view was that the player had done a lot of good things in his delivery, the medic went on to express "a bad feeling" about other aspects.   "He (Woods) kept repeating over and over again his apology," he said.  "He kept emphasising how he was a bad person who behaved outside of his core values, but he never said 'I'm a sick person with a problem and this is where it's landed me.'" 

He went on: "I wouldn't necessarily expect him to stand up and admit to being a sex addict, but I would like to have heard him say that he went to places he should not have gone.  And I didn't get the impression of someone who was completely giving in to this (rehabilitation) process.  What I saw was somebody struggling against the process.  I saw a man who looked depressed and sometimes those patients who struggle desperately not to capitulate can become severely depressed."
 
So it is clear that Woods still has much work to do before his rehabilitation can be considered a success.  How long?  Probably another week or two.  But from what we saw last Friday, it could be some time further on before he is ready to stride the fairways as a potential champion once more.  And we can take it that there will be no comeback until he is totally confident of recapturing past glories.

- Dermot Gilleece

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