Since his coming-out commercial more than 12 years ago ("Hello, world"), Tiger Woods has been soliciting our interest — in his golf game, in the kind of clubs he swings, in the make of car he drives, in the credit card he uses, in the video game he fronts.
Mission accomplished. He has become a must-see franchise unto himself, a one-man New York Yankees, a human revenue stream. Forbes magazine recently pegged his personal fortune at north of $1 billion.
"I don't know where they got that number," Woods said in October during the Presidents Cup in San Francisco.
We do. He won well over $100 million of it on the golf course. The rest came from us — specifically our interest in him that made him so interesting to sponsors.
So it should come as no surprise to Woods, or anyone else, that we've taken a special interest in his moonlight drive of early Friday morning. Nor that we find the details of his automotive mishap to be almost comically implausible.
We don't have much to go on. Sunday, for the third consecutive day, Woods declined to meet with Florida state troopers. A statement was posted on his Web site, in which Woods took full responsibility for the one-car accident, credited his wife, Elin, with courageously assisting him after the crash, and asserted his right to privacy "no matter how intrusive some people can be."
As we all know, people can be pretty intrusive. According to reports from Florida, a clot of media has gathered outside the gated community where Woods lives. Mere hours after the accident, it was no great trick to go online and find copious photos of his damaged SUV, aerial shots of his mansion, candid stills of Elin driving with two big dogs in the front seat.
At some point that level of scrutiny can be too much. As for our benign curiosity, that's fair game. Remember, we didn't approach him. He approached us.
This is a dramatic new twist in his story. For one thing, it's his first false step as a pop culture icon. His golf has been beyond reproach. His public moments with his parents, wife and kids have seemed exceedingly genuine. His charitable foundation has lent credence to his late father's contention that Tiger could one day be the most significant figure in the human race. Until Friday, he'd kept his private life flawlessly discreet. Other than some recurring golf course profanity, there hasn't been much not to like.
Beyond the unlikely drama, there are the unanswered questions. And we get it — sometimes discretion beats the heck out of the unvarnished truth, for obvious reasons. But from where we sit, as intrigued with Tiger as we've ever been, this is quite a riddle.
For starters, where was he going at 2:25 the morning after Thanksgiving? Is he a big fan of Black Friday sales? Is he part of a neighborhood watch or auxiliary fire department? Has he taken a paper route to help make ends meet?
He got up enough speed between his driveway and his neighbor's tree to do $8,000 damage to his vehicle, yet the air bags didn't deploy? Sounds like some kind of manufacturer's recall is in order.
According to reports, Elin Woods used a golf club to break windows in the SUV so she could get to her husband. Let's walk our way though this one. She heard the crash and ran outside with a golf club? Or are they lying all over the front yard at the Woods home?
More likely, that kind of emergency would require her to run back inside the house. Was a golf club the first thing she saw? Do Cadillac Escalades not come with a spare keyless remote? It's all so strange.
There are other stories out there, but so far they aren't credible enough to warrant even a dismissive analysis. So we'll concentrate on what we know. Happily, Woods' injuries were mild to moderate, and a full recovery is all but certain. Otherwise, there would be a much different tone to our curiosity.
Nor should his career or reputation suffer any long-term damage. If this is as bad as it gets for him, he's still doing a commendable job of empire management.
But for now, as per our long-standing agreement, he's the objective of our attention as we watch and wonder how he'll deal with the first truly unplayable lie of his career.
Contact Gary Peterson at email@example.com.