Tiger needs to come clean, right the ship — soon

It always has been easy for Tiger Woods on the golf course. Until now, it has been the same way in his personal life.

No more. Not with 911 tapes still to be heard and accident reports still to be viewed.

The early Friday morning accident in front of his house wouldn’t have drawn the attention of anyone other than the local cops if he were anyone else. There was no alcohol involved, damage was minimal, and Woods was treated at a local hospital and back home before word began to leak out.

But he’s Tiger Woods, and he’s larger than life. He pummels opponents on the golf course, and he sells Gatorade and Nike products to millions who are in awe of what he can do.

Woods created that aura himself, carefully managing what people saw on the course and even more carefully managing what they were allowed to see off it.

He was the ultimate control freak, whether with a 7-iron in his hand or a microphone. But, as Woods is so painfully learning now, even he can’t control everything.

At some point he’ll have to talk with the troopers. More importantly, at some point he’ll have to talk to his fans.

If not, the Internet rumor mill will keep churning. If not, the rampant speculation will be passed off as fact.

“People are just piling on with speculation and controversy,” said David Schwab, a vice president of Octagon, a major sports marketing firm. “You need something to settle the ship. If he’s not able to do it, find someone to do it for him.”

That ship seemed steady as a rock until this week when reports surfaced that the National Enquirer was planning a piece on what it said was an alleged affair between Woods and another woman. The woman denied anything was going on between her and Woods, but the report found its way to blogs and on Twitter anyway.

Then came the bizarre scene of Woods bloodied and semi-concious in his SUV with his wife using a golf club to smash out a window to help save him. In the rush-to-judgment world that exists online, suddenly two and two became five and the story steamrolled out of control.

Assuming Woods has crisis management advisers, he had better get them on the phone. Assuming they answer, he had better listen to their advice.

“He’s obviously gotten advice so far that he shouldn’t talk to anyone,” said John Rowady, president of rEvolution, a Chicago-based sports marketing agency.

So far, though, nothing but silence. No comment from Woods, none from his agent, and none from his spokesman.

On Saturday, they weren’t even talking to the troopers.

What we eventually find out might be surprising. Or it may turn out to be nothing. Either way, Woods needs to talk.

His accident parted the curtains on his windows, and gave us a tantalizing peek inside the barricades that a guy with a yacht named “Privacy” so jealously guarded.

It’s public record now, and it’s nothing Woods can control.

What he does need to know is this: People will forgive and, mostly, they’ll forget, as witnessed with the infamous Michael Phelps bong photo.

“Here’s a guy that has a squeaky clean record. He leads the king’s life and everybody admires him,” Rowady said. “It’s a personal matter, but his ability to come out and talk about it will be interesting. I’m sure he has a lot of pressure on him and is trying to avoid the rumors.”

Hard to blame Woods for wanting to take a pass. Even if it was the best scenario — that maybe Woods was just heading out for a drive — he might be mocked for his lack of skill in negotiating his driveway.

The longer Woods keeps quiet, though, the worse it will get.

Tim Dahlberg is a Las Vegas-based national sports columnist for The Associated Press. He can be reached at tdahlberg@ap.org.

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