Woods craves control and privacy as much as trophies
Tiger Woods was once again centre of attention. He always is at any golf tournament. On this occasion it seemed magnified, the dial was on max. Chinese crowds, the sponsors, the organisers and the media all wanted their piece of arguably the world's most recognisable sportsman.
And what is that like for the superstar at the centre of it all?
When he was asked Woods gave perhaps his most telling answer of the week he spent at this month's WGC Champions tournament in Shanghai. Just five words summed up his feelings. "I have never liked it," he said.
Hardly revelatory because we know Woods loathes sharing his life with anyone other than those nearest and dearest. His yacht is named "Privacy" in case we were in any doubt.
He is a master of evasion in the interview room. Woods has lived his adult life in the glare of publicity. It is why his every move is micro-managed, why he is so careful with every public utterance, why the burly bodyguards follow his every step.
This is sport's first self-made billionaire. Within his substantial sphere he has presidential influence and is treated as royalty.
The world's top golfer has his own tried and trusted methods to deal with the attention he generates and it all comes down to controlling the situation.
It means making little or no eye contact with anyone other than his caddie and playing partners when he is on the course. This is perhaps best illustrated as he walks to the range ahead of a round.
Woods looks to the sky during October's Presidents Cup
At Hazeltine ahead of the third round of this year's USPGA in August, I well remember his march to the practice area. Fans were screaming support, demanding autographs or just a wave of acknowledgment. Woods stared straight ahead as he strode hands in pockets, seemingly oblivious to the commotion.
This went on for fully 100 yards. One was left to conclude that this was a man in a bubble of fierce concentration ahead of a massively important round. Nothing could disturb him and as a bi-product he was building further his aura of invincibility.
Then something very interesting happened. Woods arrived at his allotted spot on the range and the mask disintegrated into a huge smile. There was his mate Freddie Couples. A high five, a shared joke, a laugh and a giggle and a jibe followed to the big-hitting Alvaro Quiros who was the opposite side of Woods slot.
Was he really in a bubble of concentration as he made his way to the range? Probably, but the objective was merely to deflect the hysteria that was being directed Woods' way and to do nothing that might encourage it further.
Control is the key to all that Woods does. Control of the golf ball on the course, control of the circus he generates off it. Who knows what happens when he is behind the walls of his exclusive gated community in Orlando's Isleworth Estate because that is how he needs it to be.
Anything pertaining to his private life tends to be carefully managed through his website. For example take this answer to a question about how difficult it is for him to be away from his family when travelling to tournaments in a recent Q and A session on the site.
Woods said: "You're exactly right. Now, it's very difficult to leave Elin and the children, and I'm sure it's only going to get tougher. Once Sam and Charlie start school, it won't be easy to take them out of class for a week-long trip. A veteran pro once said it's tough to leave them as babies, but once they ask you not to go, it breaks your heart. That's something I'll always remember."
So this car crash in the middle of the night outside his home takes Woods into the sort of territory he loathes. So much of it is out of his control.
He will not be able to prevent the inevitable questions over what he was doing and where he was going on a Friday at 2.25 am. He will have little say over police accounts of what happened making their way into the public domain and will have to deal with a media army stationed outside his home.
The incident will dominate the Chevron World Challenge at Thousand Oaks, Los Angeles due to start on Thursday, which is his own tournament with proceeds benefiting the Tiger Woods Foundation. Think about it, LA - if ever there was a place where they know how to run with a huge showbiz story.
In the past year it has been noticeable that Woods has become ever more ill at ease in the public eye. This blog has noted the on-course tantrums, the club throwing at the Open and his morose demeanour during his early Monday morning practice at Turnberry.
For someone who seemingly has it all - a beautiful wife, a young family, fantastic wealth and exceptional talent there seems little in the way of obvious happiness.
Of course, this may be down to the fact that we only see one portion of the 33-year-old's life but it is more than apparent that the trademark smile is not a frequent as it once was and that he seems ever more irritable.
There was the club that went (accidentally) bouncing into the crowd during the Australian Masters last week after a different form of poor driving.
His ragged performance on the front nine of the final round in Shanghai had some observers muttering speculation that "there must be something wrong at the moment." It may just have been his game but it was seriously out of character and so far below his usual standard of golf, just as it was when he missed the cut at Turnberry.
I was with one leading player this week, someone who knows how to win majors, who commented that he "wouldn't want Tiger's life at any price". He added that the only place you can have a proper conversation with him is in the privacy of the locker room - that's when he can be one of the boys.
"He doesn't know what it's like to go to a shopping mall," the player added.
Now Woods' celebrity has veered off on a different course with the lack of control he seems to have shown at the wheel of his Cadillac.
Woods and his advisors will be desperate to assume command of the story and keep details to the barest minimum making their way into the public domain.
He will regard failure to do so as a serious impediment to his progress in establishing himself as the greatest golfer ever to play the game. He finds it tough enough to live life as a dominant figure on the back pages, how he will hate being front page news.