Spander: Despite staying home, Tiger talk takes over tourney

The posters of Tiger Woods are everywhere. Why wouldn’t they be? This is his tournament, isn’t it, the Chevron World Challenge, the one which benefits his foundation?

But as we know, Tiger is not here.

He’s “unable to play.” Also, he’s unwilling to speak. Tuesday was the day he normally gives his annual State-of-the-Tiger address. Not this Tuesday.

Not with the world of gossip battering him at every turn, if not quite the literal way he was battered in that car crash.

Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, just across the Ventura County line from Los Angeles County, is gated, a Jack Nicklaus course surrounded on hillsides by mansions costing $4 million, $5 million, $6 million. It’s a place of privacy, the sort Tiger likes, but now nothing is private enough for Woods.

A week and a half ago, dressed in a red Stanford sweatshirt, holding his children and accompanied by his wife, Elin, Tiger was honored and — by the Cal people — booed at halftime of the Big Game when introduced for his induction into the Stanford Hall of Fame. He was smiling, upbeat.

No longer. His body was injured in that accident Friday morning, reportedly leaving bruises on his face. His pride has been smashed with rumors of marital infidelity splashed on supermarket tabloids and Web sites such as TMZ.com.

Now, not that it matters to a man who’s earned a billion dollars, he was fined $164 by the Florida Highway Patrol for careless driving in the accident outside his Orlando-area home.

What does matter is the investigation, insignificant as it has become, is closed in official records, even if it’s not closed in the minds of the skeptics.

Rumors everywhere of trysts. Who knows what to believe? Who knows whether we have a right to believe?

Is Tiger’s business our business? His millions of dollars of endorsements and sponsorships certainly are, since the stuff he sells — Gillette, Nike, Gatorade — is bought by fans who want to be like Tiger on the golf course.

He has been excoriated by those who insist he owes us an explanation. He has been exonerated by others who contend his life is his life, and what goes on behind closed doors is only a mainstream issue if it affects his play.

Nothing good ever happens to athletes at 2 a.m. They get into brawls. They get arrested. In Tiger’s case, at 2:25 a.m. he got into an accident serious enough he had to be taken by ambulance to a hospital; serious enough there are cuts and bumps on his face; serious enough the curious want to know why he was backing his Cadillac Escalade out of his driveway in the wee hours.

We’ve heard stories about Elin taking a golf club to a rear window. Was it in anger or to extricate Woods?
Tiger in effect is a living contradiction, with David Beckham and Roger Federer, one of the three most famous sportsmen on the planet yet excessively determined to hide from that fame.

This accident opened the gates figuratively, if not actually, since that community where he resides won’t allow visitors, not even the police.

Woods may be unseen and unheard, but he’s certainly not unnoticed.

The Tiger tournament is without Tiger, but with plenty of speculation about Tiger. There’s something very wrong with this picture.

Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.realclearsports.com. E-mail him at typoes@aol.com.

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