- The Washington Times - Monday, November 30, 2009

The Internet is stuffed with lewd speculation after Tiger Woods lost control of his Cadillac Escalade at 2:25 in the morning Friday.

The speculation has been stoked by a salacious National Enquirer story that links the married Woods to another woman and by the silent treatment of the world’s most famous athlete.

Woods finally got around to posting a statement on his Web site Sunday after postponing yet again a meeting with Windermere, Fla., police who just want to ask a few basic questions, starting with what prompted him to leave his home at a time when most people are either returning home from a night out on the town or fast asleep.

Woods seemingly recognizes that he has flunked an elementary public-relations principle with his blackout. He has allowed the story of a trivial automobile wreck to become so much more than it should be.

“Although I understand there is curiosity, the many false, unfounded and malicious rumors that are currently circulating about my family and me are irresponsible,” Woods said.

None of this is good news to Nike and Gatorade and so many other corporations that use his impeccable image to represent their products.

Rule No. 1 around potential bad news: Get out in front of it. That is especially necessary in the age of Twitter and Web sites devoted to exposing the foibles of the wealthy and famous.

Woods has led a mostly charmed existence until now. Other than his attack-dog caddy and penchant to throw the occasional temper tantrum after an errant shot on a golf course, Woods has been a study of restraint and grace, careful not to let anyone see the man behind the cultivated facade.

He never has been a quipster or one to expound on his thoughts. He has been a sometimes robotic interview subject who preferred to let his magic with a club inspire the masses.

And inspire he has. He is golf in many respects, this iconic figure seemingly destined to eclipse the record 18 major championships of Jack Nicklaus.

Golf has swelled in popularity in a way that is reminiscent of the spark Magic Johnson and Larry Bird provided to a struggling NBA in the late ‘70s. Woods has introduced the cool factor to golf and turned the four major tournaments into must-see television each year.

That is what Woods has achieved with nary a hint of being human, which is to say flawed.

Woods acknowledged the obvious in his statement.

“I’m human, and I’m not perfect,” he said.

His request to respect his privacy is understandable but unreasonable. Long ago he made the decision to be so much more than a compelling golfer. He made the decision to be an omnipresent pitchman. And his endorsements fan his fame as much as his success in golf.

Woods wound up smashing into a tree two days after the National Enquirer reported he has been stepping out on his wife with a striking Manhattan nightclub hostess.

The supermarket tabloid wrote that Woods and Rachel Uchitel recently spent time together in Melbourne, where Woods played in the Australian Masters.

Uchitel has denied being an item of Woods.

Item or not, that is the sustenance feeding the sideshow aspect of the early-morning, single-car crash.

Did Woods leave in a huff after a spat with a club-wielding wife, only to lose control of his vehicle after treating the gas pedal to a heavy foot?

Or was he merely going to a convenience store to buy a gallon of milk?

This is the gist of the unfiltered Internet.

And that speculation is on Woods, normally savvy about the media.

His tepid statement hardly will alter the dialogue.

“This is a private matter, and I want to keep it that way,” he said.

No chance of that.

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