Tiger crashes, rubber-necking just beginning

Nov 28, 2009 - 4:17 AM By JIM LITKE AP Sports Writer

Whatever sent Tiger Woods motoring down the driveway at 2:25 in the morning, it's safe to say he wasn't trying to beat the crowd down to the local Wal-Mart on Black Friday.

Anything beyond that is an assumption. Besides, the details will come out soon enough. If there's an added downside to fame in the 24/7 age, that's it.

Whenever there's not much in the way of news, chewing up celebrities becomes a passable imitation. Especially when there are copies of the police report thrown in and helicopters hovering overhead.

The only surprise, of course, is that Woods slipped up and allowed his private life to become grist for the mill. For someone who's been in the headlines almost every day, not to mention on television ever since he was no taller than a 4-iron, we know precious little about that side of him by design. Spectacular as his escapes from all kinds of trouble on the golf course have been, Woods has been even better at avoiding unwanted scrutiny away from it. Until now. He has a remarkably loyal inner circle of friends and advisers, a formidable PR machine, and he hasn't been shy about calling in the lawyers, either.

In 2006, Woods settled a lawsuit with the Wash.-based shipbuilding company that delivered his 155-foot yacht. It had nothing to do with the seaworthiness of the boat, but rather with the unauthorized use of his name and photos in promotional materials. He pocketed $1.6 million, according to documents filed in the case, which made the name he chose for the boat - "Privacy" - something of an inside joke.

Less funny was his reaction when an Irish magazine published an abusive article and faked nude photos of his wife on the eve of the Ryder Cup being played near Dublin in 2006. It took nearly 13 months to settle that lawsuit, but Elin Nordegren Woods eventually accepted $183,350 and an apology.

Trevor White, publisher of the The Dubliner, conceded the article "was cheap, tasteless, and deliberately offensive. It was also completely untrue." The family hardly needed the money - Elin Woods said she would donate the money to a cancer charity - but it certainly helped get the message out. When it comes to some things, Woods does not play around.

This time, though, a good deal of what happens next will be beyond even his control. Florida Highway Patrol spokeswoman Kim Montes said two troopers went to Woods' home Friday evening to interview him about the one-car accident, but were told he was asleep. They agreed to return Saturday afternoon.

"We want him to be awake and coherent when he talks to us," Montes said.

The report will be made public soon after. The extent of his injuries aren't known, but as with so many other larger-than-life figures, instead of tamping down speculation, the lack of information only fuels it. More than one TV commentator already began fretting those injuries might slow down Woods, and especially his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 major championships in a career. That's what passes for perspective these days.

The speculating, sad to say, hasn't been limited to golf.

"Right now we believe this is a traffic crash. We don't believe it is a domestic issue," Montes said, replying to reporters' questions. "I don't know where that is coming from. That has not been told to us."

One more thing you can be certain of: That won't be the last word.


Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke(at)ap.org

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