Do it for the Kids Tiger

By: Jeff Shelley

We've all screwed up in our lives. Certainly not on the public stage that the life of Tiger Woods' plays out on, but everyone's stepped into the proverbial pile on occasion.

I always raised my daughter to be accountable for her actions, and I've tried to live my life to that standard. Depending on the situation, if you mess up, admit it, apologize and, if necessary, make amends. It's a pretty simple formula, really.

Since I'm sure Earl Woods instilled that sensibility in his one and only son, Tiger's namby-pambyness is puzzling. Though he's admitted the car crash is "embarrassing," he's a big boy and should man up and head west to the Chevron World Challenge on his home turf in Southern California.

If the blogs are correct and he's indeed been having extramarital affairs, they don't need to be unveiled in the public wash. Let all that stuff be handled behind closed doors. I, for one, don't really give a rip about it. It'll be up to Tiger to address that with his wife and children.

But as the most recognizable sports figure in the world Woods has a duty to play in his tournament at Sherwood Country Club, which starts Thursday in Thousand Oaks.

Besides boasting some of the biggest names in golf, the event is the main breadwinner for the Tiger Woods Foundation. Many of the kids who benefit from this honorable program greatly admire its namesake and pattern their young lives after him.

What are they to think - and carry forward insofar as that personal accountability factor - if their hero backs out and is a no-show? Sure, he might be stiff and sore and bit less handsome from the facial cuts and bruises from the accident, but so what? He's a tough guy. Didn't he win the 2008 U.S. Open on a broken leg and a battered knee?

That steely look he uses to wither opponents - including Rocco Mediate at Torrey Pines - could serve him well in this instance.

We could expect this kind of hide-and-lay-low response from, say, John Daly, who, despite his outsized frame, has managed to vanish during his frequent rocky patches only to reappear and address the inquiries.

But Tiger? What has he become, a pussycat?

The apologists are lining up behind Woods, who just set an all-time mark for an athlete by passing the billion-dollar-mark in endorsements and professional income. Chief among them is Greg McLaughlin, president of the Tiger Woods Foundation and the tournament director.

McLaughlin declined to discuss whether he had spoken to Woods since Tiger's early-morning car crash last week, adding that the draw of a $5.5 million purse, world-ranking points and some fine golfers should be enough to make the event a success and take fans' minds off the obvious vacuum created by the headliner's absence. "I don't think it's appropriate for me to talk about Tiger," McLaughlin deadpanned.

What the hell is he saying? He's probably been crying his eyes out over the phone pleading with Woods to please, please, please hop on a private plane and fly across the country to the tournament.

And how about the so-far mum PGA Tour? They fined and suspended Daly for his previous snafus. What about Woods? In my book, a nonappearance by the host of a high-profile, nationally-televised tournament should result in some sort of penalty.

All of this is very sad. Tiger's legacy was ironclad, or so it appeared. The first dent in his visage came with the early-morning car wreck and the doubts swirling over its circumstances.

But the real damage will stem from his refusal to make a public appearance and participate in this tournament, a fundraiser for a foundation that he established to better the lives of disadvantaged kids who view him as a real-life hero and a shining example.

That loss of face to these kids could end up being the most lasting.

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