The Waiting Continues

By Gene Collier
Updated: January 28, 2010

PITTSBURGH — Typically by this point in this particular midwinter week, America has been alerted as to Tiger’s precise tee time at Torrey Pines, presumably so that everyone can stop what they’re doing at that moment and reflect upon greatness.

Yeah, those were the days. This year, no Tiger.

No PGA Tour Player of the Year. No Athlete of the Decade. No Tiger or the field debate. Not at Torrey Pines in San Diego for the Farmers Insurance Open, not really anywhere, not even on Facebook, where the world’s foremost sports figure stopped posting at 3:59 p.m. Nov. 6, something about a public service announcement he’d just done.

Three weeks later came the minor one-car accident that, like the jagged ice that left a few perforations on the hull of the Titanic, brought down a legend, and the sensational media hissing sound present ever since has chased Eldrick Woods into exile.

Frankly, I didn’t miss Tiger much until Wednesday, when I looked up to see who was sitting in for Regis Philbin on “Regis and Kelly Lee”, and discovered the freshly refitted image of recovering sex addict David Duchovny.

“Hey,” I thought, “isn’t the world’s foremost recovering sex addict due at Torrey Pines this week?” Not to be flip.

For the record, there is still no medical confirmation that Tiger is a sex addict, only a list of alleged mistresses longer than the 560-yard par 5 that is the 6th hole on the Torrey Pines South Course.

Further, there is no independent corroboration of author/blogger Benoit Denizet-Lewis’ assertion that Tiger is in residence at what ESPN keeps referring to as a “sex rehabilitation clinic.” (What, after six weeks, you come out completely asexual?)

Further still, there is still some thought in medical circles that sex addiction only exists under the umbrella of general compulsion disorders, having no metabolic origin of its own.

In any event, people who typically make their livings attempting to tame Tiger Woods on weekends from here to Christmas were forced to spend part of their week speculating on when Woods might emerge to provide a bull’s-eye once again.

Phil Mickelson, the world’s second-best golfer, a de facto Tiger pro tem if you will, and Rocco Mediate, the Greensburg native who helped polish Woods’ legend in a stirring playoff at Torrey Pines just two years ago, both took a whack at the when and where Tiger will spring from wherever he is to put golf back on its global axis.

Clueless, said Rocco. Ditto, said Phil.

Jim Furyk, with no more knowledge than Rocco and Phil, is on record with the prediction that Woods will turn up at Augusta for the Masters, and that has a certain resonance.

It’s hard to imagine in 2010 an April without Tiger among the azaleas, but at the same time it creates a kind of severe re-entry stunt you’d need NASA to precalculate.

Let’s see.

One minute you’re in exile, detached, disgraced, deceptive, disingenuous, defrocked, unbalanced, possibly addicted and (gasp!) practically unsponsored, and the next you’re walking serenely in the brilliant Georgia sunlight while network TV cues the acoustic Masters guitars?

I know Tiger’s got the short game and the long game, but I don’t know if he has the transition game for that.

If Woods is to reappear in 2010, and nothing that might compel him to could possibly trump the demands of his personal situation, you’d figure some kind of Oprah confessional moment (mocked as it is), or something roughly equivalent (not the Budweiser hot seat), would precede competition.

Were Woods’ head to suddenly clear, he’d be able to tell you that 2010 should have been a critical year for him in the mission to supplant Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major championships.

The venues for this year’s first three majors — Augusta, Pebble Beach, and the Old Course at St. Andrews — have been the backdrop of no less than seven of Woods’ 14 major championships.

Additionally, he was coming off a year when none of his seven tour victories included a major, which, all things being equal, would not be the time to take a year off.

Of course, all things are not equal.

There is nothing resembling equilibrium this week. The pendulum has swung wildly negative on Woods’ image, which was always too good, too calibrated, to be true. And everybody knew it.

But David Duchovny looks like he’s got it together.