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What I would say if I were Tiger

I would rather not tell people I don't know what they should say. Trouble is, being a sportswriter, I find myself doing that quite often. You should have said this. You should not have said that. When you said this, well, it sounded stupid. You should have instead said that. It's a hazard of the job, I suppose. And it's a flaw of mine. I do tend to be a nag.

That said, the following is NOT intended to tell Tiger Woods what he should say when he finally speaks on Friday. He and his multi-million dollar team will figure that one out. I'm only playing the "If I was Tiger Woods" game. It's a fun game to play when you can then go back to your own life.

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Hi. My name is Tiger Woods. I'm a golfer. I know that sounds silly. You all know who I am and we all know why I'm here. But I want to start from the beginning. I'm a golfer. I have played golf since I was 2 years old. You probably saw the footage of me on The Mike Douglas Show. I was really good even then. It's like I was born to play this sport.

My father thought so. He raised me on that belief. He and my mother raised me to believe that I was going to be the greatest golfer in the history of the world. I'm sure I would have believed it anyway. All of you know about the Jack Nicklaus poster I had on my wall... all of you have written about it a hundred times. Everybody knew my goal. I was going to beat Jack's record of 18 major championships. I was going to play golf better than it had ever been played before. That's the Tiger Woods I showed to the world.

Of course, that's not who I am. That's not the sum of me. Very early in my life, I realized that if I was going to become the greatest golfer ever, I had to separate that part of myself. I had to show a face to the world, a cold face, a competitor's face. I think I did a pretty good job of that. In public, I was the guy who striped golf balls and made the toughest putts and wore red on Sundays. I answered questions without answering them. I grimaced whenever a putt didn't break the way I wanted to, and slammed clubs when I hit a shot that wasn't just right. I cashed a lot of checks. I gave everyone a blank canvas to project whatever they wanted to believe. That's who I wanted the other golfers to see. That's who I wanted you in the press to see. That's who I wanted companies to see. That's who I wanted fans to see. I wanted them to see nothing. Air.

Let me tell you: That wasn't acting -- that's a big part of who I am. I have hit millions of golf balls in my life. I have stood alone most of my life, swinging a golf club, searching for the perfection that I believe is inside of me. I have tried to make it look easy.

There's another side. People have now seen some of that other side. I don't think I'm a bad person. I hope I'm not a bad person. But I have been wild. I have hurt people I love very much. I have cheated time and again. Much of what has been reported is not true, but some of it is true, and the irresponsible way I have lived my life has caused a lot of pain to people I did not want to hurt. My wife. My friends. My family. My children. I will only say this: There are opportunities that come with being Tiger Woods. I took advantage of those opportunities. I have taken pride in how I can stay in control on a golf course. But I lived an out-of-control life. I know much has been written about that night when I crashed the car, and almost all of it is wrong. But a larger point was not wrong. Sooner or later, the way I was living, my life was going to run off the rails. I did many things of which I'm truly ashamed. I am not here to make excuses and I'm not here to ask for forgiveness. I hope that the way I live my life will make it clear how sorry I am. I hope that I will make it up to the people who matter most in my life. I am trying to change. I hope I will change.

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I am planning to return to golf now. I need to play golf. It is what I do. It is what I have always done. I have been famous for a long time, but it was always for playing golf. I won't lie to you: It is hard to be infamous. I have spent the last few months trying to live in my cocoon, trying to reevaluate myself and my life, trying to make amends to those people I love, and all the while trying to ignore the media reports and the jokes and the rumors. I have not been able to do that too well. I know what people are saying. I know what people are writing. I can't blame them, I guess. Everyone loves a good punch line. Most of the Tiger Woods jokes I've heard aren't too funny -- at least I don't think so. But, when you are the punch line, I guess you don't get to be the audience, too.

I know from the many questions I have gotten through the years that one question you might ask is: How do I feel about it all? I feel exactly the way you would expect me to feel. I feel everything. I have been hurt. I have been angry at myself. I have been angry at the media. I have been sad. And, yes: There are times I have felt ganged up on, like so many people who built me up in the public's eye have enjoyed tearing me and my family down. Most of the time, though, the whole thing has been so absurd and agonizing and hopeful and painful that I have simply had feelings I could not describe, some crazy mixture of everything.

I do need to play golf again. I need to get back on the golf course, back in tournaments, to feel that sort of pressure again. I love golf pressure. I love that feeling of needing to make a putt, needing to hit the perfect shot... and then making that putt or hitting that shot. I thrive on that pressure. I live on that high. On a golf course, I feel like I'm exactly where I should be. I have taken the last few months off golf, because there were more important things for me to do. There are still more important things for me to do. But I need that golf feeling again.

I'm not going to talk about my family and friends here. I have told them and will tell them what's in my heart. That is for them to hear. But I do want to say a few words to my golf fans. I let you down. I let myself down. I could cop out and tell you that I'm just a golfer, and that I never asked to be a role model, and I never claimed to be anything close to perfect. But that isn't quite right. I have always wanted to be a role model, to show a public face that could help people dream. And I still want that. I still believe golf is a beautiful game for kids to play, adults too. I believe golf teaches you lessons about fair play and getting the best out of yourself. I did not follow some of those lessons. You hear so many public apologies these days, and it seems to me that the reason many of them come off sounding rigged and insincere is because it's easy to apologize. It's so easy to say you're sorry. It's infinitely harder to be sorry -- to feel such deep regret over what you did that you sincerely want to change who you are. More, it's infinitely harder to change who you are. I hope to do that. I hope the process has already started. And I hope that, over time, people will see.

Fame has brought me a lot of things. I have a yacht. It's nice to have a yacht. I have a lot of money and will always be able to take care of the people who count on me. I get letters, all the time, from people who tell me that the way I play golf inspires them. That's an amazing thing. Fame also has spilled my failings out there for the world to be judge, jury and late-night comedian. Believe me, I am not asking anyone to feel sorry for me. I don't feel sorry for myself. I do have a yacht, after all.

But I will continue to fight for my own privacy, now more than ever. I have been famous for so long that, at some point, it becomes easy to lose yourself in the lights. I have known all about the pitfalls of fame since I was a little kid -- my father warned me about it again and again and again -- and it still happened to me. I lost myself. Yes, I am a public figure. But I need to be a private one, too.

I know, in the end, people will wonder what I'm trying to do here. Am I trying to resuscitate my image? Am I trying to soften the beach for my return to golf? Am I sincere when I say that I am trying to change? Is this just a cold and calculated apology determined to win people back? I know that everyone will believe what they want to believe. That last few months have taught me many things... one of those is that people will say what they will say and believe what they will believe.

All I can really tell you is this: Golf's reigning rule is that you play the ball as it lies. This is where I am in my life. I am going forward from here. I hope to have a lot of great golf left to play, and a lot of great life left to live. I have heard from many people who say: My son or daughter idolizes you. What am I supposed to tell them? Well, I would rather not tell anyone what to say. But if it was me? I would tell them that Tiger Woods is a great golfer. And he has not always lived right. And he's trying to be a better man. Thank you all for your time.