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Tiger Woods seemed to be act sincerely

We waited 85 days for Tiger Woods to show up in front of a camera.

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And about 85 seconds to fold, grade, interpret and spin his performance.

Overall, the response has seemed evenly split, although I swear the Russian judge had it in for him.

"This was largely an exercise in propaganda, with no journalistic checks and balances or input," wrote a columnist for CBSSports­.com.

"Think about what it must be like to apologize to the world," a journalist on SI.com asked. "I don't know what else people can ask of the guy."

"I thought it was a borderline train wreck," wrote an ESPN blogger. "It amazes me that Tiger learned little to nothing from the past two months."

"How much more flesh and blood do you want to extract, then?" asked a Fanhouse.com columnist.

It was like watching an Olympic figure skating competition, except NBC was showing it live instead of tape delay.

Look, I have no idea if Tiger was contrite or calculating. I don't know if he was sincere or shrewd. And if you're honest with yourself, you have no idea either. All we have is our opinions, and we're basing those on 131/2 minutes of amateur psychoanalysis off a TV screen.

On the other hand, we are getting pretty good at this game. We winced as Mark McGwire cried through his apology. We scoffed when Pete Rose tried to sell his in a book. We adjusted the color controls on our television when Alex Rodriguez showed up for his apology with an orange tan.

So maybe you think you saw conviction in Woods' eyes when he looked directly at the camera and accepted full responsibility. Or perhaps you saw damage control when he said the details of his affair will be forever off limits.

To me, the most important words Woods spoke were when he was quoting his wife, Elin.

"As Elin pointed out to me, my real apology to her will not come in the form of words," Woods said. "It will come from my behavior over time."

And this is the reason I am inclined to believe in Tiger's sincerity. Because for the first time in his life, Woods appears to be putting other concerns ahead of his career.

Go back four months and try to recall your previous image of Woods. You knew he had a family, but you didn't think of him as a family man. You knew he had a charitable foundation, but you didn't picture him as a philanthropist. You knew he had a temper on the course and was known to tell bawdy jokes in the clubhouse, but you never envisioned him as wildly emotional.

No, for the past decade, we have mostly viewed Tiger in one way:

As one of the most focused, ambitious and competitive athletes in history.

His world was golf with a little bit of everything else sprinkled in. He was raised by his father, Earl, to be the most dominating golfer on the planet, and Woods let nothing get in his way. Not marriage. Not fatherhood. Not a damaged knee. Not even his beloved father's death.

Yet now Tiger appears to be putting golf second.

Even before his sexual appetite became national news, this was shaping up as one of the most important seasons of his career. The one milestone Woods, 34, has long coveted, the one many believe he requires in order to be called history's greatest golfer, is the record for major championships. Jack Nicklaus set the standard with 18, and Woods is No. 2 with 14.

Supposedly, this season was going to be a grand opportunity for Woods to close the gap on Nicklaus. Three of the four majors are being played on some of Woods' favorite courses. There is the Masters at Augusta National, the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach and the British Open at St. Andrews. Of the 14 majors Tiger has won, half were on those three courses.

But on Friday, Woods offered no timetable on a return to his career. He said only it could be sometime this year, which carries an unspoken implication that he might not play again for quite some time.

This, more than anything he said, tells me the extent of Woods' contrition. If he is willing to postpone his career at a pivotal moment, then I'm willing to believe he has decided to put his family ahead of everything else in his life.

Of course, I could be wrong. Woods could have couched his words for dramatic impact on Friday and still has every intention of being on the first tee at Augusta National on April 8. In a way, that would disappoint me more than his original transgressions.

Because I want to believe him when he said he wanted to make amends. I want to believe him when he said he wanted to start living a life of integrity.

I want to believe a person can screw up his life and come out better on the other side.

Tiger Woods seemed to be act sincerely 02/19/10 [Last modified: Saturday, February 20, 2010 1:09pm]
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