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Time to Leave Tiger Alone?

We've heard from the golf analysts. We've heard from the psychologists. We've heard from the women. So, so many women.

We've heard from the tabloids and the talk shows and the experts on sex addiction, speculating on whether they've found a new patient. We've even heard from Jack Nicklaus.

So here's what would be nice to hear in the foreseeable future.

Silence.

The rest of Tiger Woods' life starts now, away from the golf course and away from the world, as it should be and must be. Tiger Woods I is gone, and it is not coming back. The spotless aura, the champion beyond repute, the fantasy where the sun is always out. Yesterday.

In a dizzying fortnight - you could barely fix the accident damage on the Escalade in that time - what did not change was the debate on where to rank Woods.

What changed, was the list.

Greatest golfer of all-time? Old news.

How about ½lcub¾hellip½rcub¾ most stunning shocking downfall in sports history? Zoom. To the top of the polls. Tigergate.

But that was Tiger Woods I.

His vows for Tiger Woods II? They come to us via a Web site. Electronic anguish in a wired world. He said he wants to be a better husband, a better man. That trek starts immediately.

No time now to work on the short game. Once, he rebuilt his swing. It took time, work and dedication. In the end, it happened.

How much harder will it be to rebuild a life? This is the ultimate Mulligan. A brilliant existence with such vast horizons has shrunk to a house, and a family, and a man trying to pick up the pieces.

Tiger Woods I begets Tiger Woods II.

It will be the toughest hazard he has ever faced. Part of Woods' early stature grew from his match play mentality. Perception had it that Woods could go one-on-one with any foe and make him melt. A lot of Sundays, perception turned into reality.

We kept looking for the rival who could stand eyeball-to-eyeball with Tiger Woods and never blink. In the coming battle to restore order to his reputation and his universe, Woods has come across a relentless, willful opponent.

The face in the mirror.

That antagonist Woods has gone into seclusion to try to conquer - he is a tricky sort. Turns out he is devious, misleading, zealously guarding his dark side, deluded enough to believe he could get away with it all.

Does Woods understand the degree of difficulty of his opposition? Does he understand the stakes? He says he does. He'd better. He is not fighting for a green jacket or Claret Jug anymore. He is fighting for his family. He is fighting for his legacy, with weaknesses we never dreamed he had.

Woods' actions have become the topic of discussion of millions who pay no attention to sport. Breakfast table fodder, cocktail party conversation. There are two ways for an athlete to have that happen.

Do something very, very good.

Or something very, very bad.

Rare is the man who has managed to accomplish both. That's what makes this story so compelling, so riveting, so sad.

But now it needs to be left alone, though it won't be. No gallery is necessary for the most important tee time of Woods' life. His best hope is that the public's attention span functions as usual - in other words, remains as short as a three-foot putt. They will go on to something else.

We need, at some point, for him to stand up and tell us how things are going. If Tiger Woods II is to be anywhere as majestic as Tiger Woods I, the day of sharing something of himself must come.

But not yet.

When do we see him back? Heaven knows. The Masters is four months away. A lot can go on. Look at what just happened in two weeks.

The saga of Tiger Woods I crumbled to a remarkable end.

Now we wait for the sequel.

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Contact Mike Lopresti at mlopresti(AT)gannett.com

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