A hundred or so years from now, when the annals of golf history are scoured, how will the game remember Tiger Woods?
Already renowned as the universe's best golfer, at age 33, Woods has ample time remaining in his career to capture the five major championships needed to surpass Jack Nicklaus and cement his legacy as the best of all time.
Since it all began, we have followed alongside step for step. We were enthralled when, as a gawky and awkward-looking pre-twentysomething, Woods became the first player to win the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship three consecutive times. Heck, he is the only player to win the tournament more than once.
Several years, two pulsating pectorals, and a pair of noticeably more pronounced biceps later, we became downright inebriated by the dominance of this man.
Weaving victories within the game's already rich tapestry with unnatural frequency and ease, Woods became a larger-than-life figure.
First there was the 1997 Masters, where he broke down barriers and called out the stuffiness of the Augusta National Golf Club by becoming the first non-Caucasian to win the prestigious tournament.
Then came the unforgettable four-year period spanning 1999-2002, during which Woods won seven of his 14 major titles and established himself not only as an international superstar and pop culture cash cow, but a loving husband and an aspiring family man as well.
In 2001, fellow PGA star Jesper Parnevik introduced Woods to a young au pair named Elin Nordegren. In fairy tales, the wholesome Swedish former cover girl and well-versed black role model would work, but the union would be far from ideal. In reality, however, the pair meshed beautifully.
Less than three years after meeting, the couple wed. In 2007, Elin gave birth to their first child. Soon after that, Woods and Nordegren welcomed their first son. Now with two healthy children, the sports world's "it" couple seemed complete.
When Woods won his third-career U.S. Open despite hobbling around Torrey Pines on that knee seemingly void of sufficient cartilage and working ligaments, we all thought it couldn't get more perfect.
Chances are it won't—unless Woods overcomes this grave tragedy which he has created for himself.
The reason this scandal is so bitterly hard to swallow is the fact that Woods seemed to be every bit the perfect gentleman as his wife seems to be the girl next door.
He's handsome, intelligent, well-spoken, and a savvy handler of his multiple business ventures, and endorsers have traditionally drooled over obtaining the right to harness his reputation as a beacon of inspiration for not only African-American youth, but all children and young adults.
Despite his missteps, Woods' legacy as a professional golfer will and should remain untarnished. There will be no asterisks next to his name whether he claims the outright lead in major championship victories or fails to win another tournament.
From a business standpoint, his relationships appear as strong as they were the day they were forged.
Nike and Gatorade have already released statements expressing their support for Woods. AT&T may soon follow suit, as may others.
Woods' association with their products will only enhance these advertisers' efforts, if only in some kind of backwards way that can only be described as purely American.
Record books and public relations arms of Fortune 500 companies may not discriminate for one's transgressions as a human being, but the public certainly does. Only time will tell whether our country will accept Woods as the next great comeback story.
Woods only need do the right things to begin to regain his healthy image. It appears he is on the right track.
Woods' lengthy, introspective apology on his personal Web site helped, and he and Nordegren have reportedly entered therapy amid reworking their prenuptial agreement.
Woods' crime against the sanctity of marriage is egregious. Not that adultery is ever acceptable, but when children are involved, the severity of the act skyrockets.
But on a moral level—the one level upon which the greatest amount of emphasis in this case should be placed—I can't help but think Woods is bearing the brunt of more than his half of the blame.
Not unlike the tango, it takes two to participate in a prolonged, clandestine, and illicit affair. Or, in the case of Woods, it takes up to four.
So then why is no one expressing equal disgust toward the three women who are each presumed to have had relations with Woods, as well as their complete lack of moral fiber?
Is their complicity in all of this simply nonexistent because they are not celebrities and thus are not held to a higher standard? Some would argue yes, but that still doesn't excuse the lack of remorse for their actions, nor does it pardon their failure to say no.
If these women have anything in common other than that each has covertly philandered around town with Woods, it's that each seems mutually content to milk her unlawful affiliation with the PGA star for the sake of advancing her own pathetic agenda—financial or otherwise.
Rachel Uchitel, the 33-year-old socialite and club promoter from New York City, is working hard to uphold her reputation as a woman who dates married celebrities.
In the process, she has perpetuated the hush-hush nature of the mistress persona by initially denying her alleged relationship with Woods, which supposedly lasted six months and reached its crescendo when the golfer paid for Uchitel's travel expenses so she could join him in Australia for last month's Australian Masters.
It's even being reported that it was Uchitel's text messages to Woods that triggered the events leading up to and surrounding the single-car accident in front of the star's Windermere, Fla., mansion.
But Uchitel is about to set the record straight—sort of. According to TMZ, famed celebrity attorney Gloria Allred is expected to speak on Uchitel's behalf at a news conference Thursday at 2:30 p.m. ET.
(UPDATE: Said news conference has since been canceled by Uchitel, as of 1:30 ET Thursday afternoon, according to a report on ESPN.)
Jaimee Grubbs, 24, surfaced next. A Los Angeles cocktail waitress and former reality television star, Grubbs claims to have had an on-again, off-again relationship with Woods that lasted 31 months.
During that time, Grubbs insists Woods offered her a job and free access to a Las Vegas condo and engaged her in a number of salacious text messages.
But that all pales in comparison to the recently released smoking gun of a voicemail between the two, although it has not been confirmed that the man's voice on the recording is that of Woods.
Grubbs, an aspiring model, denies she has spoken with Nordegren, which contradicts earlier reports that an irate Nordegren attempted to contact Grubbs shortly after Woods left the now infamous voicemail.
I would be remiss in failing to mention Kalika Moquin, a 27-year-old marketing manager in Las Vegas who, according to an unidentified source, has been intimately involved with Woods on a number of occasions.
Moquin is Woods' third alleged mistress, and she has been tight-lipped about the situation, telling the press that she'd rather focus on work than any allegations of an affair.
This trio is not alone, as I'm sure names of more attention-starved femme fatales will begin to grace the Web and overtake Google's search rankings.
This is an extremely hard story to piece together. It's currently held together by tabloid sleaze and faceless sources, and any dignified news organization will think twice about dipping its toe in what has become a media cesspool.
As such, I'm not so sure we actually know much more now than we did in the wake of Woods' Nov. 27 car accident.
One thing is for sure: Each of the women currently linked to Woods has a lot to gain and very, very little to lose—if anything at all. That alone would be force enough to make any one of them ditch her moral compass in the blink of an eye.
If you don't think a wannabe model and a pair of promoters at swanky hotspots don't have an opportunity to prosper from all this, then the inner workings of our MTV-like culture is surely foreign to you.
I understand that Woods is the public figure on trial here, and he rightfully deserves the negative attention. But what of the accomplices? Should we not look at them with a furrowed brow and a piercing glance just because less may be expected of them?
Or should we expect more? What does it say for the state of our society's sense of morality if we don't put as much blame on these women as we have on Woods?
At some point or another during their association with Woods, all three women knew damn well he was married and a father of two children.
Indeed, there are two sides to every story, but until every unreasonable doubt in this case is waived, both sides should be equally accountable.
Suppose for a minute that every report we have heard up to his point is false and Woods is exonerated from any and all charges of infidelity.
After all, Woods never used the words "cheated" or "adultery" in his personal statement, nor did he indicate the manner of his "transgressions."
Should these women then not be scolded for their outrageous accusations?
We as the public have the right to determine the answer to that question. But because Woods used to be this squeaky-clean golden boy who could possibly do no wrong, especially when it came to hurting his immediate family, his is the more compelling side of the tale.
Regardless of what transpires, Woods will forever be hailed as one of the top two golfers of all time, and his clout as a revenue-generating machine will not diminish.
When all the turmoil has settled, he may even be viewed as a provider to his children and a compassionate, though perhaps not loyal, husband to his wife.
But for now, Woods has possibly put the third part of that equation in jeopardy. It's just a shame no one else is accepting responsibility along with him.
You can find this story and more at my page at Examiner.com.