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Tiger Woods Says “I’m Baaaaaack!” But, Is It The Right Move?

Submitted by on November 19, 2010 – 9:39 amNo Comment

Okay, so that’s not exactly what Tiger Woods said. Not in those words, at least.

But for a good portion of the last year, Woods has made himself unavailable to the press. Sure, he’s shown up and answered questions at press conferences before and after PGA events—which, by the way, he’s required to do—but he hasn’t been available like he was before. He’s addressed the personal and professional problems that have plagued him since that fateful night last November, but he hasn’t done it without sounding like a man with a message—one hand-crafted by a guy in a suit who works for a big-time public relations firm. He’s played in a handful of golf tournaments, but he hasn’t played the same way he did back before his world crumbled right before his eyes.

So, it was a little bit crazy to hear Woods call into ESPN’s Mike & Mike in the Morning radio show yesterday morning to talk to Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic about…well, everything. From his relationships with the people around him to his relationship with the game of golf to his relationship with, well, the world, Woods spent a few minutes with the guys just talking. Not apologizing. Not making excuses for the last year of his life. Not reading off a piece of paper. Just being one of the guys again. Talking sports. Talking jobs. Talking life.

It was, dare I say, the first day of Woods’ new life. Not that I’m naive enough to believe that everything is back to the way it was before his wife (allegedly) chased him out of the house with a 9-iron. Or back to the way it was before more than a dozen women admitted to having an affair with him. Or back to the way it was before Tiger went from being one of the most beloved athletes in the country to being the most hated.

We’re not there yet. Just like everything Tiger does, his appearance on ESPN—which almost felt like it came out of nowhere—was a calculated PR move. He kept referencing his fans and talking about how great it felt to have their support. He talked about the fact that he wants to connect with them again and get back to the way things were. He dodged the tough questions by referencing his loved ones and talked about earning the trust and respect of his own kids back again. He even touched on the fact that he’s now an active member of the Twitter community and mentioned how he’s happier today than he was a year ago. It wasn’t anything you wouldn’t expect to hear from him.

But, for the first time in a long time, it also felt like Tiger was making an honest plea with the American public to move on beyond the event that occurred last Thanksgiving. Even without saying it, it was as if Tiger was saying, “I’m ready to move on. Are you?” It seemed like he was ready to get back to playing the game of golf at a high level. Ready to take his mug out of the tabloids and put it back up on the SportsCenter screen. For the right reasons again.

Tiger Woods was essentially saying, “I’m baaaaaack,” like Michael Jordan did so many years ago after returning from his first retirement—without actually saying those words and without all of the pomp and circumstance that came along with MJ’s comeback. He was telling sports fans that he was ready to get back to leading a successful career, to winning golf tournaments, to fist-pumping on the 18th green after sinking a 10-foot birdie shot to claim a victory.

On Thursday morning, Woods did the smartest thing he’s done in nearly 365 days. He stopped hiding behind well-orchestrated PR statements, Nike commercials and press conference podiums. He stopped being so defensive and welcomed the world back into his world. He got back to being Tiger Woods.

It’s a bittersweet homecoming, one Tiger probably never wanted to make, but it’s a homecoming nonetheless. Now let’s just hope he makes the most of it.

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