"I want to say to each of you, simply and directly, I am deeply sorry for my irresponsible and selfish behavior I engaged in."
With those words, said in front of no doubt millions of people on Friday, February 19, 2010, the healing process could truly begin for Tiger Woods. The question now: what took so long?
Ever since that fateful day after Thanksgiving, all the public wanted to know is what happened. And while specific details may have been kept private, it seemed like it was just Tiger's duty as a public figure, as the most well-known athlete in the world, was to just explain. When the news started breaking about his affairs, he had another chance to come out and say something to maybe dispel the fact from the fiction. Instead, Tiger took the route of statements on his website. Sorry Tiger, that's not good enough.
Once he announced his indefinite leave of absence from professional golf, it seemed like the rumors really began spiraling out of control. The number of women grew by the day. The paparazzi following his wife Elin's every move. Rumors of where Tiger was and what he was doing. Quite simply, it was a bit much, even for the most well-known athlete in the world.
Then came Friday's public statement. In front of cameras. Not only hear Tiger's voice but see his face. It's all the public wanted from the start. Would it have stopped all the rumors? Probably not. But it may have kept the whole situation from turning into the tabloid frenzy it has become.
So now what? What's next for Tiger? Good question. Obviously, he's got personal issues to work on, mainly his marriage. From the sounds of things, Elin is willing to work this out ("Elin and I have started the process of discussing the damage caused by my behavior.") instead of giving up on him completely. With that said though, Tiger acknowledged it won't be easy to repair not only his marriage but his life ("I have a long way to go. But I've taken my first steps in the right direction.").
Tiger's statement may have been scripted but for me, it felt incredibly real. He was visibly emotional, his voice even cracking at times. He was near tears a couple times and paused at moments to compose himself. He made no excuses for his "irresponsible and selfish behavior" and said rather frankly he "thought [he] could get away with whatever [he] wanted to."
On a golf course, Tiger Woods always looks like he is in control. But behind that podium with his friends and family in front of him and a television camera broadcasting to millions, he looked vulnerable as he exposed himself. In a word, it was weird. So yes, he may have read from a script but the emotions seemed genuine. The words felt genuine. It's now up to him to turn those words into action, because as he stated in regards to Elin, "my real apology to her will not come in the form of words; it will come from my behavior over time."
As for his future in golf, Tiger didn't really address the issue much at all. In 13 minutes of speaking, he mentioned his future in golf for no more than 15 seconds. In just three sentences, Tiger all but said no decision has been made regarding his return to the sport ("I do plan to return to golf one day, I just don't know when that day will be. I don't rule out that it will be this year. When I do return, I need to make my behavior more respectful of the game."). For me, that said a lot. While that was the big question golf fans all wanted answered, it wasn't what Tiger was concerned about.
That's right. Tiger Woods is not concerned about golf. He's concerned about his marriage. His children. His family and close friends. His foundation and the many children it helps. Not golf. You see, golf will always be there. Yes, without Tiger, ratings fall and enthusiasm for the sport diminishes too but the sport will survive. So I think it says a lot that Tiger took only 15 seconds to even discuss the issue. His mind is on bigger and more important things.
Lately, all the speculation is that he will play in the Tavistock Cup in March before coming to Augusta in April for the Masters. The Tiger Woods I saw and heard from today doesn't look like he's ready for golf in 4 weeks, let alone a major championship in 6 weeks. With that said, I don't expect to see him gracing the grounds of Augusta National in 2010. I hope I'm wrong.
Tiger has achieved a lot in his golfing career. 97 professional victories. 14 major championships. 10-time PGA Player of the Year. The list goes on and on. He's also done a lot for at-risk children through his Tiger Woods Foundation. But as he said, what he's going to have to overcome may end up being his legacy now.
"I once heard, and I believe it's true, it's not what you achieve in life that matters; it's what you overcome."