Dateline / NBC
NBC Universal Anchors and Correspondents
By Josh Mankiewicz Correspondent
NBC News
updated 12/12/2009 1:22:02 AM ET 2009-12-12T06:22:02

This report aired Dateline Friday, Dec. 11 on NBC.

It began as all bonfires do—with a tiny spark, a low speed single car accident at the end of a private driveway.

Then it grew: The driver was famous. The driver was injured. The driver was Tiger.

Within days an insignificant spark had grown into a bonfire of vanities—burning a sterling reputation almost beyond recognition.

It all began in 1978 when an adorable Tiger Woods was introduced to the world - a two-year-old, showing off his picture-perfect swing on “The Mike Douglas Show.” Then, he was offering fellow guests Bob Hope and Jimmy Stewart lessons in how to putt and improve their score.

Larry Londino, the chairman of the broadcasting department at Montclair State University, in New Jersey is the author of a 2006 biography of Tiger Woods.

Londino credits Tiger’s parents for developing his killer game. His mom, Kultida, helped him achieve his zen-like calm while his dad, Earl, the ex-Green Beret, preached discipline and eliminating distractions.

Larry Londino, journalism professor, author of Tiger Woods biographies: And he’d be in the middle of his swing and earl would start jingling change and Tiger would get mad at him. And Earl said, “Get used to it.”

He did more than that. Just a year after turning pro, he stunned the golfing world. In 1997, at the age of 21, he won the prestigious Masters tournament by a record 12 strokes.

And you didn’t need to care about golf to be moved by the emotional bear hug he shared with his father after becoming the first person of color to win at the once-segregated Augusta National Golf Club.

Londino: And both of them had tears in their eyes because it was a long journey for him to get to that point.

It was just the beginning. Over the next decade, Tiger would dominate his sport like no one ever had.

Ian O'Connor, author and sports columnist: Tiger Woods is not just the world’s greatest golfer. He’s not just the greatest golfer of all time. He’s a titan in this country.

O'Connor says Tiger belongs on the athletic equivalent of Mount Rushmore.

O'Connor: He’s in the company of Babe Ruth, Muhammad Ali and Michael Jordan. And that’s heavy company to keep.

Soon he was king of his own financial empire. This year, Forbes magazine estimated that the 33-year-old had become the first athlete to earn a billion dollars. The largest chunk came from endorsements—a who’s who of corporate America including American Express and, of course, Nike… all trading on his manicured image and telegenic smile.

Even the golf trick he was performing for himself and the crew just to kill time during a commercial shoot, became its own memorable Nike ad.

And he gave back, too—a reported $30 million over the years from his foundation and annual Tiger Jam benefit concert in Las Vegas.

And all that wholesomeness that Woods, his handlers and endorsers cultivated only increased in value when he married a blonde beauty from Sweden, Elin Nordegren in 2004.

By 2009, they had two children and Tiger was counting his blessings in this pitch for a high-end North Carolina golf community.

Was he happy to be a family man? Or was that only half the story?

Londino: I know nothing about what Tiger Woods’ character is like other than what he wants me to know.

If there were skeletons in his closet, he had done a good job keeping the door closed. His rise to the top, and the Tiger brand, seemed as perfectly played as the hole-in-one he shot in Phoenix in 1997.

O'Connor: In the case of Tiger Woods, you have someone who really was viewed, unfairly or not, as perfect. And then you find out that he’s anything but perfect. He showed you recently just how imperfect a human being he really is.

A man known for booming drives began his public fall from grace with a chip shot down his own drive way. And suddenly, Tiger the great was just a celebrity golfer caught in a bad lie.

O'Connor: At the end of the day, he took a three iron to his own reputation.

It turns out his downfall didn’t really begin in his Florida driveway but in the perfect place for privacy, a place where the Tigers of the world could do whatever they wanted, Las Vegas, or so it seemed.

At the age of only 21, Eldrick “Tiger” Woods slipped into the green jacket of golf’s Masters—and unofficially became a master of the universe. Along with tournament prize money and millions of dollars in endorsement deals, Tiger put himself at the front of the line for both perks and temptations that are unavailable to mere mortals.

Nowhere is all of that in greater supply than here in Las Vegas.

This is where the Tiger you didn’t know—until last week anyway—liked to live it up.

It’s more than a couple of free drinks, and a cushy hotel room. In practice, it’s a lifestyle almost unimaginable to those who don’t live it.

Insiders describe a world of luxury and indulgence where, for celebrities like Tiger, beautiful women are always available for the asking.

Norm Clarke, gossip columnist for the Las Vegas Review-Journal: Tiger didn’t come up on the radar until about—oh five or six years ago, as far as nightclubs. Then we started getting sightings of him with Michael Jordan and Barkley.

Clarke: When Tiger Woods came to town he was usually running with a pretty player kind of crowd. And a lot of women gravitated to that. I mean that’s the big three. Tiger, Michael Jordan and Barkley in this town. Those guys are players. And I don’t mean just high stakes.

Clarke: Well, from the start he was given the VIP treatment.

A gossip columnist for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, it’s Norm Clarke’s business to know how the high rollers roll.

And about five or six years ago, when the rest of the world thought the golf’s most eligible bachelor was settling down, Clarke says his sources were telling him that Tiger was becoming a becoming a player on the Vegas strip.

Clarke: When Tiger came to town it was often to hook up with Michael Jordan and [Charles]Barkley. A lot of sightings of those guys out together. And those sightings were usually accompanied by a large number of very beautiful women hanging out with them

Clarke says he was hearing that Tiger Woods had become a big time gambler with a million dollar limit.

Clarke: I was hearing a lot of stories about how quickly he went from a $100 player to a $10,000 dollar player.

Vegas is and has always been Nirvana for a certain kind of celebrity. It’s a town full of enablers, where no one says no and where every secret is secure from the prying press—if you have money, power or both.  Elvis knew that. Sinatra’s Rat Pack knew it, and so do today’s reigning princes of sports royalty.

Clarke says the task of keeping the rich and famous fat and happy and coming back for more falls heaviest on the women of Las Vegas.

Clarke: There’s a tremendous amount of prestige and pressure on a female host to make sure that a Tiger Woods or someone of that level has a really, really good time and I think you can probably extrapolate and figure out what that means.

This woman, whom we will call Alyssa knows that world very well.

Alyssa: Just about everything gets protected. All kept quiet. You earn the trust of your clients, so you keep your mouth shut.

Alyssa has asked us to disguise her identity because she wants to continue working in Vegas and because—as you will see later on—she’s close enough to the red hot Tiger Woods scandal that she fears being burned if her name is revealed.

Mankiewicz: When a club or casino manager would come up to you and say "So and so, celebrity X, is gonna be in the house tonight, and he wants girls," you would what? You had a list of people to call?

Alyssa: You know of girls in town that either—they’re paid girls or they were girls who worked in the club, and that’s what they would do.

Mankiewicz: They were paid girls, meaning they were prostitutes?

Alyssa: There are some, yeah.

Mankiewicz: And the rest are, what, women who are just happy to be sent in the direction of a celebrity?

Alyssa: Yes.

Alyssa: Some of the girls are told you know, you need to go, he wants you.

Mankiewicz: And even if you’re not attracted to that celebrity, even if you’re not into that person?

Alyssa: There’ve been instances where people have lost jobs.

Mankiewicz: Because they said no.

Alyssa: Right. Correct.

For high rolling celebrities, Las Vegas is as close to a completely controlled environment as they are likely to find outside of their own home.

There’s the casino where regular folks gamble, and then there are places that not even the most determined paparazzi can find.

Clarke: They have VIP entrances or exits. They might be out in the public all of 10 seconds to get into a limo. And in many cases, there are a lot of the new—casinos have VIP entrances, which is super-secret entrances.

Mankiewicz: So that whole, “happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” thing, that’s more than just a slogan.

Alyssa: Yes. 100 percent caters to those people. And it is there to protect them so they come back repeatedly and spend money.

And so it was in that sheltered environment that Tiger Woods’ troubles began.

Clarke: Those who ran in that circle, those who got invites to these parties, these private parties they knew about Tiger’s visits and his closed door activity. But that wasn’t getting out.

Sports writers like Phil Mushnick of the New York Post say it’s not surprising that Tiger seek out Las Vegas for his friskier impulses given his long standing addiction to controlling nearly everything in his life.

Mushnick, New York Post: I believe that Tiger Woods' relative reality, which was confirmed and reconfirmed and affirmed time after time, day after day, was that everyone will treat him the way the sports media will do.

But Tiger Woods’ struggle to control news of his secret life ended with in a stunning loss on Thanksgiving Day 2009.

Suddenly it was the worldwide tabloid press that had much to be thankful for.

Thanksgiving Day 2009 and meals were being served up all over America.

On a day that’s traditionally all about food and football, it’s unlikely that Tiger Woods was a hot dinner topic in many homes.

But then came Friday:  Tiger Woods was seriously injured in a car crash.

Sports Journalist Ian O'Connor was on the radio when the news broke.

Ian O'Connor, sports journalist:The bulletin comes over the wire that Tiger Woods is seriously injured. So in that first frantic 15, 20 seconds your mind is racing in all different directions. You’re thinking about the worst. Is this Princess Di?

Woods was hurt, but the worst injuries would be to his brand, not his body.

Tiger’s legendary control of his image was about to clash with a relentless tabloid press—and a mainstream media all too willing to play along.

What followed is something Tiger seemed not to understand— how these days a story like his can mushroom into a nuclear explosion.

The simple truth is that there are no new sins. It’s just that these days, the old ones get better publicity.

Jim Bates, crisis PR for Sitrick Brinko: The press has very good instincts. They knew this was more than an auto accident.  What started out as a story that seemed relatively small suddenly mushroomed and got bigger, much faster.

Josh Mankiewicz, Dateline NBC: Because of things he did or because of things other people did?

Bates: Probably a combination of the two.

It began with a 911 call at 2:30 a.m. Tiger Woods’ neighbor summoned police to the gated community in Windermere, Florida where Tiger lives with his wife and children.

By the end of the day, Tiger was treated and released from the hospital, his only visible injury a cut lip. He issued a short statement saying he was “good condition.”

And maybe he was, physically. Otherwise, what was surely to be one of the worst times of his life was just getting started.

O'Connor: What’s he doing speeding out of his driveway at that dead of the night?

Almost immediately there were questions. The most bizarre detail was the smashed-in rear window on Tiger’s SUV.

Slideshow: Tiger Woods' damaged car His wife Elin had done the damage herself with a golf club while trying to get her injured husband out of the vehicle. At least that was the story. But not everyone was buying it...

O’Connor: Why did his wife really smash out a window with a golf club?

Tiger wasn’t saying, not even to the Florida Highway Patrol whose troopers tried to interview him about the crash and were rebuffed. Twice.

Jim Bates says not talking to the cops right away was Tiger’s first public relations blunder.

Bates: It did create a situation of stonewalling.

Mankiewicz: So, if he was your client you would’ve said, “Meet with the police. You don’t have anything to hide.”

Bates: Or perhaps had his attorneys do that. At least creating the impression of, we don’t have anything to hide here from this accident.

What Tiger didn’t appear to realize is that if he stayed quiet, the gossip Web sites would be more than happy to fill in the blanks.

The story taking shape there had Tiger’s wife beating and chasing him from their home with a golf club. She was furious, the story went, over this National Enquirer report alleging an affair between Tiger and a nightclub promoter, a young woman named Rachel Uchitel.

Journalism professor Larry Londino says it was the combination of the unusual accident and the tabloid report that together gave the Tiger story legs.

Larry Londino, journalism professor: Once he walked out that front door, got in that car (laughter) and drove it into a fire hydrant, then into a tree. Then it becomes public property.

The infidelity reports were spreading online, but Tiger waited before reacting publicly. According to Bates, another PR. mistake. And the mainstream media picked it up from there.

Mankiewicz: 20 years ago, a story in the National Enquirer, for some people, didn’t even merit a comment. Those days are over.

Bates: Right. It gets re-reported and re-reported. And a template is set early on.

By the Monday after the crash, Tiger was in lockdown.

He dropped out of a charity golf tournament he was sponsoring on the upcoming weekend.

And he issued a vague statement on his Web site, calling the situation “embarrassing” and admitting he’s not “perfect”. But that didn’t work either—it only fueled the cheating story-line.

Three days later he was more candid, saying “I have let my family down and I regret those transgressions,” but he also made a demand for privacy—which to Bates showed that Tiger had no idea what he was up against.

Bates: I kind of felt his statement as a little overly defensive and trying to make a case for privacy, you know, in an era when it’s almost an irrelevant question.

The tide of opinion seemed to be turning—and not in the golfer’s favor.

Even one of his fellow pros took a nasty swing: Swedish player Jesper Parnavik, who had years earlier had introduced Tiger to his wife Elin.

Jesper Parnevik (on tape): I guess we thought he was a better guy that he was. I just have to apologize to her and hope she uses a driver next time rather than a 3 iron, I’d say.

Police press conference: The Florida highway patrol has concluded its investigation of the vehicle crash of Mr. Tiger Woods.

You might think that when the police announced that NO charges for impaired driving OR domestic violence would be filed, the story would slow down.

But what Tiger would learn the hard way is that these days, there’s no stopping bad news like his.

On Wednesday, a woman quickly dubbed Mistress Number 2 gave her tell-all to US Weekly. Jamie Grubbs says she and Tiger met in Las Vegas and were lovers for more than 2 and a half years.

She had text messages and a voicemail that seemed to prove it.

By the time the weekend rolled around, the tally of alleged mistresses in the press was 9 and counting. And just like in golf—the higher that number is, the more trouble you’re in.

Mankiewicz: Should he have know this was coming?

Bates: I think you could argue if, in fact, what we’re looking at is true, than I would say, he should’ve known at some point or another that would happen.

Come Saturday night, Tiger’s troubles—and the media’s super-charged coverage of them—were Live from New York.

Bad behavior, bad PR moves, and bad driving had combined to turn a no-longer squeaky-clean Tiger from a national brand to a national joke in the time it takes a computer to boot up.

But what you haven’t heard, is how much simple bad luck may also have played a part in the press’ unraveling of a reputation.

Every day seemed to bring a new story about what Tiger Woods had been up to and with whom.

Woman number one: Rachel Uchitel. She denied the affair and hired a

Then came woman number two Jamie, armed with that voice mail heard round the world.

Then reports about a Las Vegas VIP hostess... who isn’t talking.

Alleged mistress number four is another woman he met in Vegas, then an aspiring model from New York made headlines.

Followed by a Florida woman who talked candidly about sex with Tiger to the News of the World.

And finally, a porn star.

Could it all be true? It’s impossible to know everything that goes on behind closed doors, of course. And because there’s so much money on the table for women who want to tell their story, it’s bound to bring out some who are just looking for a payday. It’s also hard to believe that Tiger Woods could have effectively kept all those secrets for such a long time.

But the circle widened.. And maybe it was a stroke of bad luck, or maybe it was bound to happen anyway. But the tipping point, the moment that started it all, may have been an act of revenge that wasn’t even directed at Tiger.

Josh Mankiewicz, Dateline NBC: This all grew from sort of a fight among girlfriends?

Alyssa: Yes. A little cat fight.

The inside story comes from Alyssa, the woman we introduced you to earlier, who asked us to keep her identity a secret (Dateline altered her voice on the broadcast). She knows both the Vegas scene and the players involved, including Rachel Uchitel - now infamous as woman number one.

Rachel, it turns out, had been in the news once before, in the days following 9-11, when she lost her fiancee who worked in the twin towers.

Since then she’s worked for Vegas clubs, and more recently back in New York where she’s known as a powerful door woman of the VIP club scene, deciding who gets past the velvet rope and who doesn’t.

And this fall, according to Alyssa, Rachel got into a dispute with another party girl named Ashley Samson. It turned into a cat fight that brought down a Tiger.

Mankiewicz: Tell me how Ashley and Rachel went from being anonymous to being infamous.

Alyssa: They took a trip together with a mutual friend of theirs, they exchanged numbers. Rachel, telling her about her relationship with Tiger, and how they were in love.

Mankiewicz: From what you’ve heard, how seriously involved was Rachel with Tiger Woods?

Alyssa: I knew of a couple of trips she had taken with him. I had heard details of their sex life together.

Mankiewicz: And she was smitten.

Alyssa: Very much so. I believe she felt they were both in love, yes.

And according to Alyssa, for Rachel love meant making sure her friends knew about the affair. Rachel would even put Tiger on speaker phone without his knowledge so her girlfriends could listen in when he called. And, in a decision she would later regret, Rachel shared intimate details with Ashley, whom she barely knew. But according to Alyssa, Tiger wasn’t the reason these two had a falling-out.

Alyssa: Something happened one night where Rachel invited her out, and then kind of left.

Mankiewicz: Dumped her?

Alyssa: To go hang out with someone else.

Mankiewicz: And that made Ashley angry.

Alyssa: Yes.

Alyssa says Ashley wanted revenge. And maybe the best way to hurt Rachel was with a blow to the heart.

Mankiewicz: They have a fight and Ashley decides to end that fight by going to The National Enquirer?

Alyssa: Correct. She said, “You know what? She wants to talk about her relationship, so will I.”

If you’re thinking that the punishment doesn’t fit the crime, you’re probably right. Does a perceived slight equal revealing someone’s most personal secret to the most notorious tabloid in America? Well, this time at least, the answer was yes.

According to Alyssa, it was in early November that Ashley Sampson called the national Enquirer to exact her revenge. she had a story the paper couldn’t resist: that good guy Tiger Woods was behaving badly.

One day after Ashley's phone call to the tabloid, an Enquirer reporter was in Las Vegas for the big interview. Alyssa says Ashley shared the photos from her vacation with Rachel. And—at the Enquirer’s request, Ashley took a polygraph test.

Mankiewicz: What’s your understanding of when Tiger Woods learned about all this?

Alyssa: About three days after she had talked to the magazine...

Alyssa says the Enquirer called Rachel to get her response. Rachel called Tiger. And a bidding war began.

Alyssa: I believe Tiger’s lawyer started calling to get Ashley to be quiet.

Mankiewicz: Offering her money?

Alyssa: Yes.

Mankiewicz: So there was a period of time when this secret could have remained a secret?

Alyssa: Yes.

Mankiewicz: And it would have cost Tiger Woods some money, but it wouldn’t have appeared in the paper.

Alyssa: Correct. I believe she dragged her feet a little too long in trying to play hardball with his lawyer and it came to press, and there was no retracting.

The Enquirer came out the day before Thanksgiving. What happened next was in every newspaper in America.

Mankiewicz: When you heard about the accident involving Tiger and his wife, what’d you think?

Alyssa: I immediately thought of this story.

The damage was done. Rachel Uchitel flatly denied the affair and isn’t talking.

Ashley hasn’t responded to our request for a comment. Ditto the Enquirer. They let their story do the talking.

Mankiewicz: As far as you know, does Ashley feel any remorse about what she did?

Alyssa: I don’t think she feels bad about hurting Rachel. I think she feels remorse that she’s hurt Tiger’s family.

Mankiewicz: I guess I just find it almost impossible to believe that this all had to do with a fight among girlfriends.

Alyssa:…if you’re doing something you shouldn’t be doing, you keep your mouth shut. You don’t trust anyone.

Mankiewicz: So Rachel should have known better.

Alyssa: Yes.

Of course, Tiger Woods should have known better too... that one day the good Tiger would collide with the bad.

Earlier this week self-proclaimed Mistress Number 2 was still talking about Tiger, now on camera for “Extra.”

Today, 26-year-old Jamie Dungers becomes the latest to speak out, saying she just wants to set the record straight.

Jamie Dungers: It was way more than sex. It became a relationship.

Dungers also wants to swat down rumors that Tiger might have paid the bill for her .

Dungers: That’s 100 percent false.

And she denies a Las Vegas madam’s suggestion that Dungers might have once dabbled in prostitution.

Dungers: That’s 100 percent false. I have nothing to do with prostitution and never have and never will.

And so it goes, every day brings a new hint or allegation — and gives someone somewhere else a reason to join the chorus.

Dungers: I was in love with him.

Yesterday, Dungers sat down with Tracy Gallagher, a freelance correspondent for an international television company which is selling Dungers story around the world.

In the interview, which was licensed by NBC, Dungers says her Tiger encounter began in Las Vegas in 2005, less than a year after Tiger got married.

Dungers: One of the VIP hosts approached me and said “Tiger would like to meet you”. And I just kinda laughed and said “Tiger Who?” and he said  "Tiger Woods."

Gallagher: Well what did Tiger first say to you when you met him?

Dungers: Said he saw me from across the way and he just had to meet me, thought I was gorgeous.

Jungers: I had no idea where it would lead to.

Video: Alleged Tiger Woods mistress kisses and tells

In the end, she says, it led back to the Tiger’s den—and to an almost inevitable conclusion.

Jungers: One thing led to another, next thing you know—I was sleeping with Tiger Woods.

Gallagher: Some reports have said he’s a wild man. Were you shocked by the sex?

Jungers: It was pretty wild. It wasn’t like boring married couple sex.

According to Jungers, the affair lasted for another 18 months. She says Tiger saw her whenever he was in Vegas and called or texted her every week when he wasn’t.

Jungers: He flew me out to Chicago the first weekend that we met. And then for one of the PGA tours. And then he just flew me to his house in California

Gallagher: How many times?

Jungers: I would say at least 10 times.

There in the California home, Jungers says there were plenty of pictures, including recent wedding photos to remind her of Tiger’s other life.

Jungers: I’m the one that brought up the marriage—one time in the relationship, and I said, “How is your wife?” And he said “Things are good.” And then I just said “OK”. I kinda left it at that.

Gallagher: Do you have any proof though of your relationship? Do you have any emails? Do you have any photos?

Dungers: I have all of it. I have photos of inside of his house. Absolutely.

There are the pictures Dungers says she has from inside Tiger’s California home. Though there doesn’t appear to be any obvious detail that would prove Tiger lived there, there is plenty of detail in her story.

According to Dungers, Tiger called her his “little coffee cup” but, she says, he barely bought her as much as a cup of coffee after a year and a half together.

No flowers. No jewelry. She says the richest athlete on earth had no money to spend on his girlfriend.

Dungers: It just ended pretty crappy to be honest with you.

Dungers says the end came when she asked Woods for some help in getting her out of a financial jam and into a new apartment that she desperately needed. Even a few hundred bucks would have helped.

Dungers: I said “I love everything that’s going on between us but you’ve got to help me.” And he said “I can’t.” And I said you can’t help me at all? And he said “no.” And I said “why?” And he said, “I just can’t.”

After that night in 2006-- Dungers says her affair with Tiger Woods became just another bittersweet memory.

Dungers: I did love Tiger, and I will always have a place in my heart for him.

But Dungers says her wistful what-might-have-been ache faded some after that fender bender down in Florida.

That’s when somebody outed Tiger’s “little coffee cup” and she learned she was just another mug in his collection.

Gallagher: You didn’t want this publicity then?

Ungers: I did not. If I’d wanted it I would have done it years ago when this happened.

Dungers: I have an idea who it was. I believe in karma and everything you know , it’ll come back around.

Gallagher: Do you think you owe Tiger’s wife an apology?

Dungers: No, I don’t. I feel like that’s his - that’s his business. I was younger and I’m not saying that what I did then was right. But I’m certainly not gonna say that it was wrong.

After apparently leaving a trail of broken hearts longer than the 14th at Pebble Beach, the karmic blowback for Tiger has been fierce.

And it leaves him with a challenge unlike anything he’s ever faced. If the old Tiger has disappeared in a tabloid fog, what comes next?

For Tiger Woods, the joke was now on him, virtually non-stop late-night ridicule and humiliation, leaving him and others to wonder how such a carefully controlled life had gone so haywire.

Phil Mushnick, TV sports columnist: We can’t stop. As sports media, we can’t stop.

TV sports columnist Phil Mushnick believes Tiger felt entitled and invincible in part because of his own arrogance. But Mushnick also blames the public and the media for insisting that their sports stars be heroically super-sized.

Mushnick: We can’t leave it at he’s the greatest golfer in the world. We have to embellish it, enhance it, and make him, in addition, the greatest human being in the world, the greatest son, the greatest father, the greatest husband. The greatest person.

Today, he’d no doubt be on the list of world’s greatest cads. And it’s not clear if Tiger’s wife Elin wants to work through that and continue their marriage.

There was a report that the couple’s prenuptial agreement is being re-written to Elin’s benefit and also that they’re undergoing intense marriage counseling.

Slideshow: Tiger and family

Jim Bates, PR crisis management: The first thing is that he and his wife need to decide what are they gonna do for their family? What’s the decision to make? Because that’s gonna determine, ultimately, how he’s gonna respond publicly.

Crisis management specialist Jim Bates says eventually the public’s attention will move on, allowing for the kind of image-rehabilitation that’s made a huge difference for public figures as diverse as Hugh Grant, Bill Clinton, and Kobe Bryant.

One key Bates recommendation is for Tiger to do a major interview. Already, Woods’ friend, Oprah Winfrey, has offered up her couch, as would just about anyone else in the business ... Tiger has become THE booking prize.

But Tiger Woods isn't waiting for an interview.

Late today he made a stunning and dramatic announcement  that he’s withdrawing from golf—indefinitely. In a statement released on his Website Woods admits he’s been unfaithful to his wife.

"I am deeply aware of the disappointment and hurt that my infidelity has caused to so many people, most of all my wife and children. I want to say again to everyone that I am profoundly sorry and that I ask forgiveness. It may not be possible to repair the damage I’ve done, but I want to do my best to try."

"After much soul searching, I have decided to take an indefinite break from professional golf. I need to focus my attention on being a better husband, father, and person."

Again, I ask for privacy for my family and I am especially grateful for all those who have offered compassion and concern during this difficult period."

But in this day and age—is asking for privacy—too much?

Bates: Here’s the problem: in this day and age of the Internet, in this day and age of the number of celebrity sites that are out there—

Mankiewicz: Nobody has any privacy.

Bates: Nobody really has that. And you can say it’s unfortunate. We can say it’s terrible. But what are you gonna do about it?

He could maybe complain about it on TV, as Tiger’s pal Charles Barkley did in support of Woods last night.

TNT Halftime Report:  Barkley: I know America because they got no life. I know a lot of reporters 'cuz who got no talent making money on your name right now. But I just want you to know, you got friends.

When and if he returns to the game, Tiger’s best response may be on the fairways. Ian O'Connor, author of “Arnie and Jack,” about golfing legends Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, expects that when Woods starts playing again, he’ll come out firing.

Ian O'Connor, sports journalist: He’s gonna channel this rage that he probably feels toward the media—whether it’s misguided or not—and direct that towards his opponents. And even though Tiger is the bad guy in his own drama, a lot of golfers are gonna pay the price for it. And I think they’re gonna be cowering in their spikes.

Some observers who’ve watched him from the sidelines think Tiger also has a chance to rise from his self-made hell as a better person.

Mushnick: He could become a little more sincere, a little more humble. He could be a little more giving.

O'Connor: You know, sometimes he comes across as a robot in a red shirt. He’s exposed himself now as being more flawed, more human. And in a certain way, he might be able to relate better with the average guy in the gallery. And that might be a good way for him to go about repairing his image.

Even if it does come with a new-found humility, winning won’t heal all his wounds. But it is bound to provide some cover while Tiger figures out what is important to him.

And, whatever he decides, the temptations that caused his life to become such a public nightmare will still be lurking out there.

Mankiewicz: When Tiger Woods returns to Las Vegas, as he probably will at some time in the future, will he be welcomed the same way?

Alyssa: I don’t know if he even feels if he wants to step foot into that right now. He’ll always be welcome there. Nothing’ll change as far as what goes on and how he’s treated.

O'Connor: If I were Tiger Woods, honestly, even though I have a great marriage, would I be able to handle that? It’s a hard thing. But he’s Tiger Woods. And to be faithful to, not only his marriage, but really to his responsibility as a role model, he needs to overcome that temptation, and he failed to do it.

Tiger Woods, of course, is not the first person to yield to temptation. He might not even be the most famous. But he could be the most unlucky... learning in front of the whole world that these days, no one’s sins stay private forever.

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