Friday, January 25, 2008

Woods chooses his causes carefully

In Anaheim, Cal., on Monday, Tiger Woods unveiled a statue of himself and his late father, Earl, at the Tiger Woods Learning Center.

It was Earl, Tiger has said, who inspired him not only to play golf the way he does but to find a way to help others benefit from his success. The learning center, where Woods has put his heart as well as his name, is where Tiger has chosen to focus his efforts.

It has been so successful, having hosted more than 16,000 kids in two years, that another is under way in Washington, D.C. It is not about golf – though there is a golf element – but it is about learning and responsibility and opportunity.

Two days later, Woods was in the media center in San Diego explaining how he had forgiven his friend Kelly Tilghman for her dreadful choice of words three weeks ago, her “lynch him in a back alley" comment having sparked another storm of national discourse on race.

Intent – or the lack of intent – weighed heavily into Tiger’s reaction, as it should have. He understood Tilghman made a regrettable remark while also understanding there was no malice or ill intent. We all make mistakes, Woods said.

The issue, as we all know, was fueled by Golfweek’s monumentally misguided decision to run a noose on its cover, a classic example of the media being caught in the swirl of a story it continues to churn.

While others including the Rev. Al Sharpton and Jim Brown have chimed in and Tilghman served a appropriate two-week unpaid suspension, Woods has been criticized for not making a bigger issue of the incident.

“I know there are people who want me to be a champion of all causes and I just can’t do that,” Woods said.

He has chosen his causes and has worked in his way to make other lives better. He is not oblivious to history or prejudice or social activism. He is not as political as some would like him to be but Woods is a man of deep convictions.

And not just on the golf course.