VANITY FAIR: There was once, in fact, a sustained glimpse of the real Tiger Woods. In 1997, Charles Pierce, writing for GQ, got inside. Tiger was 21 at the time, on the eve of winning his first of four Masters. For somebody who at the age of two had appeared on The Mike Douglas Show (where, with a perfect swing, he miraculously hit a stunning shot into the center of a net), he seemed remarkably naïve and remarkably stupid about the ways of the media. The interview was largely a series of profane quips by Tiger, such as “What I can’t figure out is why so many good-looking women hang around baseball and basketball. Is it because, you know, people always say that, like, black guys have big dicks?” At another moment, during a photo shoot where four women attended to his every need and flirted with him as he flirted back, he told a joke: He rubbed the tips of his shoes together and then asked the women, “What’s this?” They were stumped. “It’s a black guy taking off his condom.”
There came another joke about why two lesbians always get to where they are going faster than two gay guys: because the lesbians are always going 69. Pierce’s interview, which he taped, was the only honest and open one Woods has ever given. After that the steel wall of insulation came down, spearheaded by I.M.G. Joe Logan, who covered golf and the P.G.A. tour for 14 years for The Philadelphia Inquirer and saw Woods play close to a hundred times, invariably observed the same thing whenever Tiger appeared at a press conference during a tournament: he came into the room with an entourage that included several security officials from the P.G.A., Mark Steinberg, and often Nordegren, after they got married in 2004. An almost imperceptible nod would come from Steinberg to begin, and a half-hour of questions and answers would start. Some pro golfers, such as Phil Mickelson, wear their hearts on their sleeves during these sessions. Mickelson could talk candidly about his game and the impact of his wife’s having breast cancer. He could also be snarky and pissy. Never Tiger.
“Tiger learned very well to talk forever and say nothing,” said Logan, a co-founder of a Web site called MyPhillyGolf.com, which covers the game both nationally and in the Philadelphia region. For Woods, Logan remembered, an emotional response to a flawless round was “I had a pretty good day.” He never got rude or rattled. He never got irritated with a stupid question, in large part because he knew the camera was always on him. The press conference would go on until Steinberg would give another nearly imperceptible nod that it was over. Afterward, Logan, like other golf writers, would walk out and realize that virtually nothing Woods had said, whatever the cordiality, was usable. MORE