All eyes on Tiger Woods

Mark Torpey
Golfer Tiger Woods visits the White House in 2009.

Not since the leader of the free world told us that he “did not have sexual relations with that woman” has so much attention been given to the planet’s most famous philanderer.

The eyes of America this week are riveted on Tiger Woods, who is in Augusta, Ga., to play in The Masters after a five-month absence from competitive golf.

Woods is making every effort to get his life together, telling the world how sorry he is for his extramarital transgressions.

Let’s hope he succeeds.

He’s also making every effort to reclaim his crown as the world’s top golfer,  proclaiming it’s time to “try to win this thing.”

Let’s hope he falls on his face.

Rooting for Tiger Woods to fail does not come easily. He is an American success story, an incredibly gifted athlete who took a sport and vaulted it to a new level of popularity. He obliterated the notion that to succeed in golf, you have to be privileged, rich...and white.

He was the darling of an adoring nation, the handsome kid with the boyish grin who wowed the public on the course and charmed them off it.

He made millions. He became a family man, marrying a beautiful woman who gave him two children.

If there was anyone who was truly living the American dream, it was Tiger Woods.

But it all came crashing down on Nov. 27. That’s the night Woods crashed his SUV outside his Florida home, sending him to the hospital and his life into a tailspin. Reports emerged that he was trying to elude his enraged wife, who went into a fury upon learning about his affair with another woman.

The incident triggered a series of reports alleging numerous affairs. For weeks,  tales of sordid trysts kept emerging, complete with porn stars and lurid text messages.

With his marriage on the rocks and his life seemingly in ruins, Woods announced in December that he was taking an indefinite leave of absence from golf. Shortly after Christmas, he entered a rehab facility in  Pine Grove, Miss., to be treated for what was reported to be “sexual compulsion.”

But now he’s back, in Augusta, trying to salvage his career and his image.

He took two major steps in that direction Monday. First, he played a practice round in front of what seemed like a forgiving audience at Augusta National. He then went to face the media.

He was peppered with questions about his marriage, his accident, rehab and drug allegations. He gave cautious yet courteous answers, although few of his replies revealed much. It was obvious he had been coached.

But his remorse seemed genuine.

“I need to be a better man going forward than I was before,” Woods said. “And just because I’ve gone through treatment doesn't mean it stops. I’m trying as hard as I possibly can each and every day to get my life better and better and stronger. And if I win championships along the way, so be it.”

If Woods means what he says, good luck to him. Here’s hoping he can save his marriage and repair his image.

Yet before he returns to his throne as the world’s best golfer, it would be nice to see him – at least for one week – eat a heaping helping of humble pie.

That would be a small price to pay for his reckless actions and the hurt he has brought to his wife and family.

It may sound corny and old-fashioned, but when a man stands next to a woman, in front of an altar, before God, and enters into marriage, he should be man enough to stay true to that woman and those vows.

On Oct. 5, 2004, Woods stood next to Elin Nordegren in an Anglican wedding ceremony, promising to “love her, comfort her, honor and keep her, in sickness and in health, and, forsaking all others, be faithful to her.”

He broke those vows, and he’s paid a price. And, hopefully, he’s done paying that price.

But for this week, it’s tough to be enthusiastic about the prospects of him winning in Augusta.

Maybe next year. Not this year.

I hope he misses the cut.

Mark Torpey is sports editor of The Patriot Ledger.