Tiger Woods: Right message, bad delivery

November, 18, 2010

Tiger Woods gave a 17-minute interview with ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike in the Morning" program on Thursday morning, discussing the fallout from his personal scandal of the past year. He remained introspective, but not revelatory; articulate, but not impassioned; regretful, but not distraught.

We shouldn't have expected anything more.

Ever since making his 2010 season debut at the Masters Tournament, Woods has been interrogated about his private affairs and how they have affected his family, his golf and his life overall. A scratch-handicap in avoiding a question if there ever was one, he has sidestepped these issues time and again, proffering only the most canned responses rather than speaking off the cuff.

The result is exactly what we heard once again on Thursday -- a man who says all the right things in exactly the wrong way.

Woods once again furnished stiff answers straight out of an IMG how-to handbook to questions which should elicit more emotional responses. If there's anything the public still wants to hear from him, it's passion. Some intonation in the voice. A little exasperation. Something to show that this entire ordeal has affected him internally, still eats away at him every day. Instead, he has offered all the emotion of a guy reading off cue cards.

"It's amazing how much better I feel internally each and every day. How thankful I am to have the connection to my kids," Woods said during the interview. "I feel so much better and everything is in much better perspective now."

Those aren't the true inner feelings of a guy who has just gone through the roughest patch in his life. They are a summation of his feelings, as told to him by a public-relations wag in an effort to sound more forgivable.

The truth is, Woods might not even know how to speak passionately anymore. The same talking points and interview strategies have been ingrained into his head for so long that he might not even recall what true emotion is supposed to entail. Call it "The Emperor's New Clothes" for the 21st century.

Look, this can't be easy. Most of us would have a difficult time discussing such private matters with our closest friends and relatives, let alone a worldwide audience. Tiger has never been the most comfortable guy in front of the camera -- or in this case, on the phone -- so how can we expect him to be even more forthcoming when speaking of his personal life?

Really, we can't and we shouldn't. It's been almost a year since Tiger's single-car accident in front of his home led to revelations of marital infidelities, and it's been many months since he first addressed the questions. What you see is what you're going to get with Woods. Or, to use one of his favorite phrases, "It is what it is."

It's almost appropriate that Woods is coming off the first winless season of his professional career. This latest Q&A session mirrored his 2010 season on the links. At times he appeared very much in control; other times he struggled to perform. In the end, it wasn't a victory, but he avoided embarrassing himself again. And for Tiger Woods these days, that might be the most important thing.

Jason Sobel is a golf writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn.com.

Jason Sobel | email

ESPN Senior Writer


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