Maggie Gallagher

Here are words I never expected to say: I have sympathy for Tiger Woods.

Who is responsible for this strange epiphany on my part?

Here is where it gets even weirder: Donald Trump.

The morning of Tiger's odd and painful press announcement, I was driving in my car listening to "Fox and Friends," when all of a sudden, Donald Trump weighs in:

"I have a whole question as to whether they should even get back together," Trump said. "It's so damaged, and if the reports are just half true, I would recommend Tiger just call it a bad experience, say bye-bye, go out, be a wonderful playboy, win tournaments and have a good life."

And suddenly the scales fell from my eyes. I saw at once something that changed forever the way I think about Tiger Woods: Donald Trump was right.

Let us call this re-branding approach laid out so eloquently by the Donald the "Pig" Woods Strategy.

Tiger Woods' actual strategy was very different. He went on TV and said:

"I am deeply sorry for my irresponsible and selfish behavior I engaged in. ... I know I have bitterly disappointed all of you. I have made you question who I am and how I could have done the things I did. I'm embarrassed that I have put you in this position. For all that I have done, I am so sorry. I have a lot to atone for.

"I stopped living by the core values that I was taught to believe in. I knew my actions were wrong, but I convinced myself that normal rules didn't apply. I never thought about who I was hurting. Instead, I thought only about myself. I ran straight through the boundaries that a married couple should live by. I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to. ... I was wrong. I was foolish. I don't get to play by different rules."

This was a painful and embarrassing thing for Tiger Woods to say, and also a painful and embarrassing thing for the rest of us to hear. And listening with the most charitable ears, we cannot help but wonder how much of it is sincere and how much of it is image management.

But Pig Woods would have no such problems. Pig Woods could go out and make an apology that goes something like this:

"Yes, I'm sorry. I'm sorry that I misled you and the American public into imagining that I was some kind of role model. Elin and I will be divorcing and I wish her well and will support our children. But right now both my image and my marriage need to be brought in line with reality. I'm not a role model. I'm just a man who's really really good at hitting golf balls into holes. I look forward to returning to the golf course to win back the title of greatest golfer in the world. In the future, I won't comment on my private life. I will let my golfing do the talking from here on out."

And it would work. As Pig Woods, Tiger can be rich, famous, successful and lie with and to models and Perkins waitresses to his heart's content -- and nobody will care.

So in the midst of all that is false and ugly about the Tiger Woods saga, you have to believe one thing about this man: His heart is not content with being Pig Woods. He really wants to be the Tiger we once thought we knew and loved. And you have to love a guy -- at least a little -- for that.


Maggie Gallagher

Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.