Bill Conlin: In this forest of the night, one swell foop of titillation

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Tiger Woods is at the center of growing speculation over his car crash late last week, and the possible role played by his wife, Elin Nordegren Woods, left. Questions continue about a possible relationship with N.Y. nightclub hostess Rachel Uchitel, right. (AP photos)

Tiger, tiger, burning bright

In the forests of the night,

What immortal hand or eye

Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

- William Blake, "The Tiger"

THIS TIGER reached the edge of the forest and bounced off a young, live oak. At 2:25 a.m. Friday, it definitely qualified as a forest of the night. Or as close to a forest as the homeowners will tolerate in a gated, rich-and-famous community named Isleworth, which is tucked out of sight in the Orlando suburb of Windermere. Shaq lives there, among other R&F.

These gorgeous homes, some double the size of the $2.4 million spread owned by Eldrick Woods, 34, a professional golfer and billionaire thanks to his never-matched skill at the sport, undulate around the lush contours of the Isleworth Golf and Country Club.

Thanks to a Microsoft product called "Bing Maps," I spent some time yesterday hovering 50 feet or so above Tiger's home on Deacon Circle and Deacon Court, a tiny cul de sac that serves as a turnaround on the narrow lane and provides a driveway entrance to the home that the world's most recognized athlete since Muhammad Ali shares with his 29-year-old wife, Elin Nordegren Woods.

According to the unofficial physical evidence, Woods climbed into his black Escalade alone for reasons that have not been revealed by Tiger, Elin or anybody else in the entourage of speed-dial sycophants surrounding a man who, for about a dozen 4-day weekends a year, holds the golfing world - and millions outside it - in total thrall. I don't think it's a reach to suggest that with Tiger and his African-American/Asian ethnicity on one side and Oprah, the ultimate, self-made, minority woman on the other, a climate of tolerance unprecedented in America helped make possible the election of President Obama.

Just as the mythical Icarus crashed to earth because he got so close to the sun that the wax on his wings melted, Tiger Woods has toppled to earth with an emphatic thud.

Suddenly, thanks to the voyeuristic nature of this privacy-invading society, all the elements of classic country music were crammed into cyberspace in one swell foop of titillation that produced an astounding two million hits to the Orlando Sentinel Web site Saturday.

TMZ had Woods at the Australian Open with a New York City nightclub jock, rock- and screen-star collector, Rachel Uchitel, who immediately denied any romantic involvement with the megastar, then hired a high-profile Los Angeles attorney.

So, the infidelity genie, alleged, of course, is out of the bottle. Just about every country tune involves a triangle, and the third side of this unfolding Soapus Americanus features Elin taking a long iron to the Escalade SUV back window, ostensibly to free her unconscious and bleeding husband, whose injuries do not seem consistent with a relatively low-speed collision involving a smallish fire hydrant and a tree that sustained only a glancing blow. The damage to the Escalade itself - an estimated $6,000 to $8,000 - is a relative ding on a vehicle that went for about $85,000 decked out in Masters Champion trim. It is a beast of a vehicle, somewhere in size between a full-size Humvee and a World War II Sherman tank.

We can't speculate whether Tiger had buckled his seatbelt when he took off for wherever - fellow golfer and Isleworth resident Lee Janzen speculated that Woods, a restless sleeper, might have been heading out for an early workout at the club. Whatever, there was no way to reach a dangerous speed in the short distance to the corner. Turning the corner, any NASCAR fan will tell you, he overbraked and skidded into the hydrant marked by a small excavation where it was sheared off before hitting the tree on the right edge of his neighbor's driveway.

The only thing intriguing to me - I have no confirmed details on the Woods' personal lives, nor do you - is the rather glaring conflict between the 9-1-1 tape and Elin's only statement to police.

It is about 200 feet from the Woods' front entrance to the crash site. Elin says that she immediately ran to the site - with a golf club - and broke out the back windows of the Escalade so that she could open the locks, then dragged her unconscious husband to the ground next to the driver's side where she attempted to revive him.

One assumes that some time ran off the clock while Tiger's neighbor (who never identified the famous subject of his 9-1-1 call) grabbed his portable landline phone or cell and reached the crash site.

 

Caller: I have, this is, uh . . . (redacted) in the Isleworth subdivision. I need an ambulance immediately. I have someone down in front of my house. They hit a pole. I came out to see.

Dispatcher 2: There was an auto accident?

Caller: An auto accident, yes.

Dispatcher 2: OK, is he outside or inside his car? (inaudible)

Dispatcher 2: Sir, your phone broke up. I heard inside. You there? Your phone broke up there. Can you repeat your phone number for me? (redacted)

Dispatcher 2: Is he unconscious?

Caller: Yes.

Dispatcher 2: OK, are you able to tell if he's breathing?

Caller: No, I can't tell right now.

Dispatcher 2: OK. We do have help on the way. What color is his car, too?

Caller: It's a black Escalade.

Background, woman yelling: WHAT HAPPENED?

Dispatcher 2: Is anyone able to open the door?

Caller: We're trying to figure out right now.

Dispatcher 1: Is he trapped inside of the vehicle or is he outside on the ground?

Caller: We're just trying get the police here right now. We don't know what happened. We're figuring that out right now. I'm on the phone with the police right now.

He was outside on the ground, according to the initial dispatch. The connection was lost, but in the nearly 4:30 of elapsed time, the caller was at Woods' side. There is no mention of a wife attempting to revive him. The woman who asks "What happened?" never says another intelligible word.

And that's all I want to know. What happened to the most famous athlete on the planet?

All we have now is a possible country-song title:

"He Gave Me the Ring: I Gave Him the Shaft."

Send e-mail to bill1chair@aol.com.

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