- The Washington Times - Friday, December 4, 2009

Tiger Woods has not tarnished his legacy in a lasting way despite the rush to claim otherwise.

He is the No. 1 golfer in the world, arguably the best there ever has been. This hardly elevates him to the level of saint. This hardly excuses him from the foibles of the human condition. If anything, you could argue it makes him more susceptible.

The combination of wealth and fame can be an intoxicating mix to both those around it and those who live it.

Woods probably can walk into any place in the United States, plus many places across the globe, and leave with whatever he wants. If the want is a nice-looking woman, he can have one at his side in an instant.

That is his power beyond the golf course, and clearly now he has been exercising that power with a high degree of frequency, if we are to believe the tabloids - and they have not been shown to be wrong yet.

It is not the cheating on his wife that is so surprising. It is the incriminating trail he left behind: the voice mails and text messages. It was the irrefutable evidence that prompted Woods to issue his public confession.

This is not the image Woods has peddled to an adoring public. But that is your problem if you believe the image and the hype around it.

Except for his mesmerizing golfing ability, Woods is no different from many people. This should not come as a surprise to anyone. Not now. Not in the high-tech age of cell-phone cameras, when one inadvertent moment can be shown on YouTube in seconds.

None of this is apt to damage Woods long-term. He is the best at what he does, and his dalliances with women do not change that. Being the best is his appeal.

He undoubtedly is taking a public relations hit now, and he erred in letting the story fester for as long as it did before getting his side out.

But this soon will pass, just as it has with previous philanderers.

You might have thought Alex Rodriguez was finished as an A-list star this spring. Here he was coming off a high-profile breakup with his wife, fanned in part by his “friendship” with Madonna, and then an admission that his name was among those who had tested positive for performance-enhancing drug use.

Yet by October, after a stellar season, A-Rod was all the rage in the Bronx, hitting home runs, playing “relaxed,” as if he somehow were relieved not to have to pretend any longer that he was perfect.

Americans love the tale of redemption, and A-Rod basked in it all in the fall, just as Woods can one day, just not now.

This is his nadir.

This is one of the few times most married duffers would say, “I’m glad I am not Tiger Woods.”

He is sharing living space with an angry wife who just might stay angry a long time.

That is tough on the old quality of life. Woods could resort to Kobe Bryant’s zillion-dollar-diamond maneuver, employed after his issue with a woman in Colorado. Or he could rework the prenuptial agreement.

Whatever is before Woods, he is hardly the first mega-star to succumb to his primal urges, and he certainly will not be the last.

Some of America’s fondest sportsmen have been cads, dating to Babe Ruth.

Of course, Ruth’s womanizing was kept out of the sports pages in his time. But the subsequent revelations over the decades have not diminished his mythical stature.

That, too, could be the destiny before Woods if he passes the record 18 major championships of Jack Nicklaus.

Otherwise, this mess made in tabloid heaven is between Woods and his wife.

The story has mushroomed to three other women and counting.

That is a whole lot of making up to do.

Burnishing his golf legacy will be easy compared to the making up.

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