Yet there he was on Thanksgiving night, crashing his Cadillac Escalade into a fire hydrant and a tree at 2:30 a.m. outside his house in a gated community outside Orlando. After playing hide-and-seek with Florida Highway Patrol officers for four days, Woods was cited for careless driving and fined $164, closing the police investigation. But the tabloid investigation was just heating up, and soon allegations of extramarital affairs were coming in on almost a daily basis. At least nine women had been romantically linked to Woods by week's end, one claiming to have had an ongoing relationship with him for the last 31 months.
There was also a New York Post report that the Enquirer had obtained photographic evidence of Woods's infidelity in 2007 but had agreed not to make it public in return for his agreeing to pose for the cover of Men's Fitness. (Both publications are owned by American Media.) The Post's source was former Men's Fitness editor-in-chief Neal Boulton. American Media CEO David Pecker told the Post that Boulton's story "is absolutely not true."
Two weeks ago, we would have dismissed such tawdry rumors about Woods as laughably implausible. Not anymore.
What is sadder? Woods's attempt to make his private life look too pristine to be true, or his knowing, deep down, that he was selling a lie? Either way, it's hard to imagine now how anyone could have envied Woods so, given the mostly self-imposed pressure of being seen as Mr. Perfect. "I admire Tiger tremendously," Arnold Palmer once told SI's Michael Bamberger, long before Woods's troubles arose, "but I wouldn't trade my life for his for all the money in the world."
In the digital age there is nothing that does not come to light. Covering up a paper trail is hard enough; erasing an electronic trail is nearly impossible. It was inevitable that Woods's alleged behavior would eventually come out, given the numerous potential sources for a leak—and surely he was smart enough to realize that.
While it's a stretch to say that the prying tabloids and websites did Woods a favor, they will eventually come to his rescue by replacing his scandal in their headlines with someone else's. Just as Manny Ramirez pushed Alex Rodriguez aside on the steroid beat, just as Woods has embarrassed himself more than Letterman in the womanizing arena, so will someone come along to divert attention from Woods.
In the meantime he can't hide forever. Woods will have to come out and face the public, perhaps at the San Diego Open at Torrey Pines in late January, if not before. Who knows how much more detail he will offer up, but he will have to let the public look into his eyes. Maybe there will be genuine sadness in them, and we will feel sorrow for him in return. That might be the best thing for both the star who has been so robotic and for a public always on the lookout for the next falling star. It would remind us that no matter how fascinating or entertaining a scandal might be, it is always a sad story.
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