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Monday, December 14, 2009
Expect Tiger's hiatus to match offseason

By Jim Caple
ESPN.com

Frankly, a professional golfer saying he is taking an indefinite hiatus from golf in early December is like a Pittsburgh Pirate saying he's taking an indefinite break from baseball in October. How are we supposed to notice?

Oprah Winfrey
When Tiger's ready to tell his side of the story and apologize publicly, where do you think he'll go?

Yet, I was at a Christmas party this past weekend and was surprised that so many people thought Tiger Woods would be gone from golf for a long time, perhaps all of 2010. Don't worry, folks. Just as the Pirates will report to spring training, Tiger will be back on the course within a couple of months. He announced his hiatus in an attempt to get the media off his back for a while -- and frankly, why does he need to explain anything to us? The only person he needs to speak to is his wife. And she probably isn't real eager to hear his stories right now.

Which is a big reason this hiatus can't last long. Can you imagine how unpleasant Tiger will be around the house if he isn't able to golf competitively? Elin will be begging him to get back on the tour before the bowl season is over.

Here's how the saga will play out:

Tiger will take some private time with his family during the next couple of weeks, waiting until the inevitable time when the media get distracted by another juicy scandal. (BTW: Is anyone happier about the Tiger affair than Jon Gosselin?)

After a while longer, Tiger will go on Oprah to give his mea culpa. He'll talk about how he behaved very, very badly but that he's changed his ways. Shedding a tear or two, he'll ask his fans to forgive him. And they will, just so long as he doesn't jump on the couch.

Dubai
If any place has had a worse year than Tiger, it might be Dubai.

Next, he'll pick a minor tournament in which to return, perhaps the Dubai Desert Classic. Not only is this tournament prohibitively expensive to cover, it's also during Super Bowl weekend, when the media are so busy that even TMZ could go with only single coverage on Tiger. Or maybe he'll pick the Mayakoba Golf Classic, which is not only during the Winter Olympics but also in Mexico. Or the Puerto Rico Open in mid-March, when everyone is focusing on the NCAA tournament.

Then Tiger will show up at Augusta and hold a single, very controlled news conference in which he again apologizes for his "mistakes." He'll stress that he is moving ahead as a better, stronger man. And then he will shoot 15 under to win the Masters, with the media reporting it as another Tiger triumph, perhaps his greatest yet -- his skill, focus and dedication overcome scandal!

We in the media also will say Tiger is better loved than ever because now he seems flawed and human rather than a cold, deliberate machine.

And then everyone will move on. Tiger will go on to more tournaments and more victories, while the media will move on to the next poor schmuck caught with his pants down.

(Confused about how the media cover an athlete's personal affairs? Check out the unwritten rules.)

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com. You can follow him on Twitter @jimcaple.

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