Time for Tiger to come out of hiding and face his demons
There is a missing persons alert out in America at the moment: Tiger Woods has disappeared. Since his car crash on November 27, the world's greatest golfer has not been spotted by anyone. Nor has he spoken to anyone.
While his wife has been photographed (forgetfully without her wedding ring), he is nowhere to be seen. Like a ball hacked into gorse he has seemingly vanished from view.
There have been endless false rumours, naturally. Reports of him being sighted have come in from the ski slopes of Arizona, from the marinas of Florida, doubtless from the chip shop where Elvis goes in for his deep-fried fish cakes.
Earlier this week one professional Woods lookalike was chased by platoons of paparazzi through the streets of San Francisco. Last weekend half the New York press corps was mobilised to the Trump Hotel when it was reported that the golfer had checked in there. He hadn't.
Even his friends -- and he doesn't have many -- have not heard a peep from him. Charles Barkley, the basketball player who is one of his favoured companions on nocturnal business, has had his texts and phone calls go unanswered. Nor -- more pointedly -- have Woods' many business associates been in touch.
"I don't know when I will talk to him," Tim Fincham, the PGA Tour Commissioner, said this week. "We pledged our commitment to give him privacy."
So all-encompassing has been his absence that the US website 'The Daily Beast' commissioned 10 leading psychics to use their extra-sensual abilities to determine where he was. It was a task beyond even their powers.
The best Victoria Bullis, a psychic and wellness expert (whatever that is) could come up with was: "I'm getting the word 'harbour'," while the clairvoyant psychic Derek Calibre hardly narrowed things down with: "I don't think he's on an African safari."
Even The Amazing Kreskin, the American television psychic who styles himself, rather alarmingly, as "the world's leading mentalist," could only admit: "I really can't say where he is."
Not that we should be surprised by Woods' conjuring trick. For a man with one of the most recognisable faces in the world, Woods has long been a master of keeping his private life to himself. How else did he manage to keep prying eyes from his personal habits for so long than by the assiduous application of secrecy?
Mind, he was helped in that by a golfing establishment that colluded in ensuring news of his girl-in-every-clubhouse habit did not get wider circulation. The game's journalists, entrepreneurs and administrators alike shared a mutual interest in maintaining golf's image of decency and honour, one which urgently required its leading practitioner not to be revealed as a serial philanderer.
Frankly, never mind the billions extracted from corporations on the back of a false impression of integrity, they would have been more than happy if no one -- including Mrs Woods -- had ever found out what they knew.
Well, now the news is out, they are suffering the fallout of that complicity. Hard as it may seem to believe it with your local course currently resembling Arctic tundra, the new golf season is under way.
The first PGA tournament of the year kicked off in Hawaii. And it did so without its main attraction.
Of course, Woods has been missing from the action before through injury. But the bottom line of his removal from the schedules will make alarming reading for those running the game. Last season, for instance, television companies were charged $80,000 a minute for PGA Tour events in which Woods was not participating. For those in which he was, the price went up to $120,000 a minute. This is a man who made a lot of people a lot of money.
The big question now is: how can he be brought back in? How can the cash cow be once more reconnected to the milking machine?
Never mind that Woods has long since made financial gain from courting it, only those lacking a shred of humanity would argue that he does not deserve a chance to regroup away from wider attention.
The problem is, the longer his disappearance goes on the harder it will be to integrate him back into the fold. If half the American media can be scrambled on a rumour, imagine what will happen when he really does appear for the first time.
It will be tough enough for Woods playing again, what with every shout of "in the hole" suddenly taking on satirical spin, without him adding to the burden by indefinitely delaying his reappearance.
If he has been spending the past month facing his personal demons, he needs quickly to address those with bazooka-sized telephoto lenses. Because right now, his absence is only making the world's heart grow ever more prurient. (© Daily Telegraph, London)