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In first interviews since car crash, Tiger Woods talks about ‘disgusting behavior’

Woods discusses the sex scandal that shattered his image in separate five-minute interviews with ESPN and the Golf Channel.

March 21, 2010|By Diane Pucin

Tiger talked Sunday.

For five minutes.

To two chosen outlets.

He wore an olive-green sweater, a yellow golf shirt and an emotionless face. He stood with his hands crossed and tired-looking eyes and for 10 minutes answered questions for the first time since a car accident Nov. 27 set off a chain of events that has included his admission of marital infidelity and his absence from tournament golf.

In two interviews orchestrated by his representatives, Woods spoke for five minutes first to ESPN reporter Tom Rinaldi, then to Golf Channel anchor Kelly Tilghman in the gated community near Orlando, Fla., where he lives.

Each asked 21 questions and the interviews aired simultaneously at 4:30 p.m. PDT, after a PGA Tour event ended, per instructions from Woods' representatives, according to executives from both television outlets.

Vince Doria, ESPN senior vice president and director of news, and Golf Channel spokesman Dan Higgins said they were contacted Friday by Woods' representatives. They were offered the chance to ask Woods any questions in that limited time frame.

LeslieAnne Wade, a spokeswoman for CBS, said that network also was offered a five-minute interview but turned it down. Wade said CBS didn't want a time limit.

CBS broadcasts the Masters, the event at which Woods has said he will make his return to tournament golf. ESPN also broadcasts the Masters, which begins April 5.

Though word of the interviews began spreading early Sunday afternoon, neither network was allowed to publicize the interviews until 3:30 PDT, Doria said.

"There were no restrictions on the questions," he said, adding that the time restriction "wasn't ideal."

Rinaldi's most pointed question was his second-to-last.

"I ask this question respectfully, but of course at a distance from your family life. When you look at it now, why did you get married?"

Tiger looked at Rinaldi without a change in expression but with emotion in his voice.

"Why? Because I loved her. I loved Elin with everything I have. And that's something that makes me feel even worse. That I did this to someone I love that much."

Rinaldi described Woods as "calm and composed" and said, "Woods arrived without an entourage. He stood by himself for a moment, realized I was there," Rinaldi said. "He was cordial toward our crew."

Tilghman's most pointed question came when she said, "You went from being recognized as the greatest golfer in the world to becoming a punch line. How does that make you feel?"

Woods was unblinking as he said: "It was hurtful, but then again, you know what? I did it. I'm the one who did those things and looking back on it now with a more clear head, I get it. I can understand why people will say these things because you know? It was disgusting behavior. As a person, it's hard to believe that was me, looking back on it now."

Doria said that when the interview was offered to ESPN on Friday, "The understanding on our part was that there would be no restrictions on questions. We felt accepting the interview even with the restrictions best served our viewers."

ESPN was aware that Golf Channel would be interviewing Woods as well.

"That was fine with us," Doria said. "Any one-on-one you get serves the viewer."

In the ESPN interview, Woods said returning to competition would be good, but that he also would continue to undergo unspecified treatment.

Woods also told Rinaldi that he been living a lie.

"I was doing a lot of things … that hurt a lot of people. And stripping away denial and rationalization, you start coming to the truth of who you really are, and that can be very ugly. But then again, when you face it and you start conquering it and you start living up to it, the strength that I feel now — I've never felt that type of strength."

diane.pucin@latimes.com

twitter.com/mepucin

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