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We are entitled to know truth, Tiger

By Karl MacGinty

It's grown into a monster game of Cluedo! Did Mrs White, enraged by the antics of Miss Scarlett clobber Professor Plum with the sand wedge in the conservatory?

Key ‘Tiger' and ‘crash' into any internet search engine and you'll find a world wide web of amateur sleuthing, groundless theory and wild speculation, some of it “malicious” according to Woods.

Of course, Tiger and his advisors created the vacuum into which poured all the ludicrous nonsense of recent days.

His failure to explain even to Florida Highway Patrol officers how or why his Cadillac Escalade careened off a fire hydrant and thumped headlong into a tree outside his next door neighbour's house around 2.25 last Friday morning helped turn a relatively innocuous motor accident into a major soap opera.

Woods fulfilled his legal obligations when his lawyer handed over his license, registration and insurance documents to police on Sunday and he was not obliged to submit himself for questioning.

In a contrite public statement, he admitted “the situation is my fault and it is obviously embarrassing to my family and myself”; that he's “human and not perfect”.

Yet instead of offering any credible explanation for what happened — “I was heading down to an all-night store for diapers and a squirrel/dog/cat/wife leapt out in front of me.”

Tiger merely stated: “This is a private matter and I want to keep it that way.”

Leave yawning gaps like that in any story and people inevitably will fill them in for themselves.

Woods praised wife Elin for bashing in the rear windows of the car with a golf club and extricating him from the wreck, saying she “acted courageously when she saw I was hurt and in trouble. She was the first person to help me. Any other assertion is absolutely false.”

Upon hearing a collision outside one's house in the early hours of the morning, how many of us would have the presence of mind to pick up a golf club as we rushed to the driver's assistance? See, the temptation to play Inspector Grey is utterly irresistible.

Are we, the great-unwashed, entitled to answers?

Well, the Highway Patrol was summoned to attend a road accident, albeit in an highly-exclusive, gated community, and Woods, dazed and bleeding heavily from lacerations around his mouth, was removed to hospital by paramedics. So the incident is a matter of public record and major concern.

And after 13 years in which Woods has brought himself close to becoming sport's first billionaire, largely by encouraging us to use a wide variety of services and products manufactured by his sponsors, we are all entitled to know about the real man behind the ‘Tiger Brand'.

Incidentally, the folks at Gillette must be wondering what's coming next — Roger Federer up for shoplifting at his local Lidl or exposed as a peeping Tom?

In Tiger's case, what harm can there be in discovering real people actually live, laugh, cry, shout and scream behind those beautifully pristine Woods family snapshots. If anything, it should make him more marketable, not less so.

As the media gloves come off, it's fascinating how rumours of domestic discontent are now being offered as a possible reason for Tiger's unhappy demeanour on the golf course, especially in the second half of the season.

In failing to win a Major in 2009, Woods certainly appeared to be at odds with his putter, while his driving (on the golf course) was so erratic, it has led to a plethora of jokes in the wake of last Friday's incident — for example: What's the difference between a car and a golf ball? Tiger can drive a golf ball 350 yards.

No question, stress at home will have as much an effect on the elite sportsman as anyone else.

For example, Colin Montgomerie found it hugely difficult to concentrate on the golf course when he separated from wife Eimear in 2002 and again at the time of their divorce in 2006. In a fascinating recent BBC documentary on depression in sport, boxer Frank Bruno said the breakup of his marriage left him feeling “like the enemy in my own home”.

Yet with little more than gossip as evidence, several golf writers in respected international media outlets casually imply that Tiger's marriage would undermine his prospects of beating the record 18 Majors won by that most staunch of family men Jack Nicklaus.

Respectfully, the fact that Ben Hogan was married to Valerie for 62 years; that Arnie and the late Winnie Palmer enjoyed 42 years of wedded bliss or that Jack and Barbara have been together for nearly 50 years is not of any consequence to Tiger in his career.

Are we supposed to believe there's some ‘Happy Family' formula for success in golf — let's see, if we add the Golden Bear's wife and five children together; multiply that figure by 21, the number of his grandchildren; then divide it by half of the golf clubs in his bag (7), we get 18, his professional Majors! Talk about adding two and two.

For a start, the legends of the past were allowed to live (and row) in relative peace. If, in his haste to avoid a well-aimed rolling pin, Nicklaus crashed his car into a tree and the police were called, his home would not have been buzzed by four TV news helicopters, as Tiger's was last Friday. Domestic incidents remained indoors!

Woods has lived with this pressure for years, even naming his huge, luxury yacht ‘Privacy', though it's a mystery why he had that name emblazoned across its stern, making the vessel a target for sightseers anytime it enters port.

An increasing number of people within his sport, especially those who hold the etiquette of golf in high regard, are vexed by Tiger's behaviour — including bad language and club abuse (Woods actually bounced his driver into the crowd by the 13th tee during the third round at the Aussie Masters); his sparing acknowledgement of fans; his habitual spitting and the sometimes boorish behaviour of his caddie.

Yet he remains a figure of mass appeal, by far the most famous and charismatic of current sportsman.

For example, the cosmopolitan city of Melbourne was overwhelmed by Tiger-mania last month as people from all around that vast country flocked in their tens of thousands to see him play his first tournament in Australia for 11 years.

It was a shock last Friday evening when TV bulletins reported Tiger had been seriously injured in the accident — after losing Woods for eight months in the wake of reconstructive surgery on his left knee following the 2008 US Open, the sport knows precisely how much tougher the global financial meltdown would be without its prize asset.

In his absence, US TV ratings plummeted by an average 48.8 per cent per tournament last year.

A whopping 57 per cent fewer tuned into Padraig Harrington's victory on Sunday at the PGA Championship in Hazeltine than had watched Tiger win at Southern Hills the previous August.

Tiger's sensational runaway victory at the 1997 US Masters changed golf forever, vastly increasing its appeal in the general population. As TV rating soared, so did the sport's financial might.t

Heaven forbid, losing Tiger probably would be a bigger blow even to the sport in Europe than the imminent demise of The Race to Dubai.

Now, getting back to the Cluedo...

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