Bob Lutz

Woods can finally get back to playing golf

Tiger Woods, it's time to play golf.

You've done what you can now to repair your image and I'm sure you understand there's plenty of work left in that endeavor. You're never going to be seen the same way in the eyes of many of your former — and even current — fans. Your legacy is forever tainted.

But what you can do is play golf. It's what you were put on this planet for. Your return to the game this week is the reason so many of us tuned in to your Monday news conference. Golf is your canvas.

We weren't expecting a bombshell to be dropped during your news conference and you didn't disappoint. To your credit, you answered every query and only a few times did you seem irritated by the line of questioning. You promised a kinder, gentler Tiger and for now, at least, that's what is needed.

What you did to your wife and kids is disgusting, but at least you sound sincere in accepting responsibility for your bad judgment and ghastly behavior. Your marriage is between you and your wife. Your attempt to become a better person is your personal battle.

You've said enough now. People are either going to slowly start to trust you again or they have written you off.

When you begin play Thursday at the Masters, a tournament you love, the world will be watching. Many people want to see you fall flat on your face, but those people are not going to realize their dream. You'll still be the best golfer in the world and it wouldn't surprise many of us if you won this tournament, your first since November.

You look to be in amazing shape and your focus undoubtedly is sharp. I imagine you feel better about yourself than you have in years, encouraged that you're beating back your demons and discovering a new way to lead your life.

You're no dummy; you realize what is at stake. Hopefully, you'll find peace and be able to make amends with all the right people, most of all yourself.

Before your Monday meeting with the press, I was one of those who wanted you to fail. But listening to your words and thinking about the power of redemption, I changed my mind. I hope this works out for you, Tiger. And I'm not talking just about golf.

You have made some incredible mistakes. You have been selfish beyond words and cost your family immeasurable pain and embarrassment. I am among those who will never look at you in the same way.

But I'm willing to look at you, at least. I'm willing to give you a chance, remembering that none of us are perfect and many of us are not even close. Mistakes are a way of life and even though yours are numerous and pitiful, they are not unforgivable for those of us who value you as a golfer.

As a human being, you may never regain what you've lost. But as a golfer, the world is still your oyster.

* I built my Monday around watching the opening of baseball season (if you don't count the Sunday night game), the way I do every year.

And I have just two words for you: Albert Pujols.

Watching him play the past nine years and one game has been a joy and a privilege. And if that sounds corny, so be it. Pujols, who opened Monday with a 4-for-5, two-homer game in Cincinnati, is the greatest hitter of my lifetime who happens to play for my favorite team.

Baseball season is an endurance test, sure to beat down even the greatest of players, but Pujols has never skipped a beat. He started mashing baseballs on Day One and he's still doing so.

During spring training, a report surfaced that the Cardinals and Phillies might have talked about a deal that would have sent Pujols to Philadelphia in exchange for Ryan Howard, another of the game's great sluggers.

The Cardinals better never trade Pujols. They better work on getting him signed to a contract extension because his current deal runs out after the 2011 season. Pujols needs to be a Cardinal for life, no ifs, ands or buts.

* The trade of Donovan McNabb ate up the headlines Sunday night and Monday morning. That's the state of the NFL in this country, I suppose. The season never stops and the offseason has become almost as big as the regular season and playoffs.

McNabb is a good quarterback, not a great one. He's not going to make the Washington Redskins, his new team, a Super Bowl contender. He's being brought to Washington to help stabilize that team's quarterbacking position for a year while new Redskins coach Mike Shanahan builds a master plan.

The Philadelphia Eagles didn't make a giant blunder by trading McNabb to a division rival. Philly is getting younger at a lot of positions, building a team that will be a strong Super Bowl contender in two or three years, I suspect. I like what the Eagles did here in dumping a rich contract, albeit for just one year, and turning over the QB position to Kevin Kolb.

* Xavier Henry didn't ask me, but he needs to return for his sophomore season at Kansas. Not only will he help the Jayhawks, but the Jayhawks and coach Bill Self will help him become a better and more complete player. Every day that passes without a Henry announcement about making himself eligible for the NBA draft is a good day for KU.

* Some other baseball observations from Opening Day:

Big Z (Carlos Zambrano), not only couldn't protect a 3-0 first-inning lead against Atlanta, he gave up eight runs in 1 1/3 innings. That's funny.

Looks like the Royals' bullpen is in midseason form.

Mark Buehrle, Roy Hallady and Johan Santana showed why they're legitimate aces.

Gonna be another really long season in Washington. Call Stephen Strasburg up. Now.

How about 20-year-old Atlanta slugger Jason Heyward? Might he be the most impressive hitter to come into baseball since Pujols?

* In case you haven't heard, I'm jumping back on the St. Louis Rams' bandwagon in 2010. Don't worry, there's plenty of room.

The Rams, coming off a 1-15 season, have the first pick in this month's NFL draft and it's making me nervous. One day I want the Rams to pick Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford, the next I want Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. Now I can't stop thinking about Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, who has slid into the picture for the Rams.

What to do?

As of this moment, I'm in favor of picking Bradford. I think he might be the kind of special quarterback to lead a team to championships. But get back to me.

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