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Tiger’s tale proves we still don’t know him

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Bill Plaschke
April 6, 2010
— On a warm spring afternoon, wiping the sweat from his forehead with his giant biceps, Tiger Woods played the Masters’ media like he plays the Masters tournament.

He was smooth, straight, powerful at times, precise at others, dramatically calculating, poignantly finishing.


He was, well, unbelievable.


A good thing on a golf course, but not so good on the fairway of public opinion, where the world’s greatest golfer still came off as the world’s least-trusted athlete, his first news conference after five months best described as a bogey.


“I’ve lied and deceived a lot of people,” Woods said.


How do we know he’s not doing it still?


In a 36-minute appearance at Augusta National on Monday, nearly five months since his life spiraled into a devastating sex scandal, Woods answered all the questions, but didn’t.


He expressed remorse, but showed no visible signs of change. He seemed more openly friendly, yet remained tersely protective. He made all the proper shots, yet none of it seemed quite right.


“I lied to myself, I lied to others,” Woods said, yet offered only glimpses of the truth.


He said he spent 45 days in a rehab center—allegedly for sexual addiction—but would not confirm his affliction.


“That’s personal, thank you,” he said.


He admitted to working with noted performance-enhancing drug guru Dr. Tony Galea, but did not acknowledge the danger in that association.


“He’s worked with so many athletes—there’s a certain comfort level when a person has worked with athletes,” Woods explained.


He explained his injuries suffered in the one-car accident Thanksgiving night—“A busted-up lip and a pretty sore neck”—yet he would not address witness reports that Woods appeared to be drugged at the time.


“Well, the police investigated the accident and they cited me 166 bucks and it’s a closed case,” he said.


He noted that wife Elin would not be attending the Masters, his first tournament since the sex scandal broke on Thanksgiving night. But he refused to answer whether his return to golf here was hypocritical of his original statement that he was leaving the game to mend his family.


“I’m excited to play this week,” he said, moving on to the next question.


He did his best. He worked a rainbow-colored shirt and a big smile, two things seen around him about as much as a duff. He called reporters by their last names, called us all friends, even referred to one as “Bro.”


But in the end, it was obvious that we still don’t know him, and that he still may not know himself.


He bragged that his inner circle has remained intact throughout the scandal, from caddie to agent, yet these are the same folks who may have facilitated a private life that allegedly included more than a dozen affairs and suspicions—despite Woods’ denials—that he has been using steroids.


“I certainly have everyone around me,” Woods said. “I’ve had, again, a tremendous amount of support.”


He was thrilled that Monday’s practice round here, his first public round since the sex scandal, was filled with cheering fans. But Augusta National is the golf equivalent of church, where fans must cheer here or risk being ejected.


“The encouragement that I got … it blew me away, to be honest with you,” said Woods.


To be honest with us? Not yet.


Bill Plaschke writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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