Kelly Tilghman is comfortable being on the air. As a Golf Channel anchor and PGA Tour tournament play-by-play announcer, the North Myrtle Beach native spends a lot of time in front of cameras.
She's accustomed to interviewing others, but she spent much of Monday on the other side of the microphone as the interviewee, after being one of only two reporters to question Tiger Woods Sunday in his first interviews since his accident in November and subsequent confessions of infidelity.
"By nature I'm an interviewer and not an interviewee," said Tilghman, who was selected by Golf Channel executives to conduct the interview. "But it does come with the territory, especially this uncharted territory with Tiger."
Tilghman's television and radio appearances began with segments on CBS' "Early Show" at 7 a.m. and NBC's "Today Show" at 7:30 a.m. She also appeared on the Dan Patrick Show on ESPN Radio, the E Network with Ryan Seacrest and two major Canadian stations. The Golf Channel turned down or put off dozens of additional interview requests.
Tilghman and ESPN's Tom Rinaldi were limited to a maximum of six minutes each; she managed to fire 21 questions at Woods in that time.
"You wanted to cover as much territory as you could without cutting him off and interrupting his thought," Tilghman said. "It was a short turnaround from the time I found out to the time we went to work with him, but quite honestly these questions have been formulating for months."
CBS was offered up to six minutes but declined, stating the network didn't want to comply with Woods. Tilghman said there was no way she would have passed up the opportunity, regardless of any time limit.
"I think any window is open right now considering how the public has been pining to hear from him," Tilghman said. "The Golf Channel received the opportunity, and they were very excited about it. When they called me, I considered it a great opportunity."
During Woods' interview with Tilghman, he expressed remorse and regret for the hurt he has caused his family, friends and those who looked up to him, and said his actions can partially be blamed on his feeling of entitlement because of his fame and accomplishments. "I hurt so many people by my own reckless attitude and behavior," Woods told Tilghman. "...The truth is very painful at times and to stare at yourself and look at the person you've become, you become disgusted."
She asked Woods if he ever thought he should end the infidelity. "I tried to stop, and I couldn't stop," he said. "It was horrific."
Tilghman, who regularly spoke or exchanged messages with Woods prior to his accident, believes the Woods she talked to Sunday is a more humble person, though he still has an unrelenting will to succeed.
"It's going to be a long road for him, but I believe it's a road he'll stay on," Tilghman said. "I heard him very much speaking the language of therapy and rehabilitation, and when we started talking about golf you could see the competitor was still inside him. ... This is a guy who was built to win."
Woods told Tilghman: He'll continue his therapy and doesn't know how much that will allow him to play this year; people in his inner circle were unaware of his actions; he's now wearing a Buddhist bracelet for protection and strength; he will talk to his children about his shortcomings as they grow older; and he misses the guidance of his father, Earl, who died in 2006.
Woods told Tilghman he believes the legacy he has sought is still salvageable and attainable.
"I felt that golf was a vehicle for me to help a lot of people," Woods said. "My dad had always said something that I never really quite understood until these times. In order to help other people, you have to first learn how to help yourself. Going into a treatment center for 45 days I learned a lot. I learned how to help myself and that's the way I can help others down the road."
Tilghman doesn't believe Woods is done speaking to the public and media from the heart.
"He knows it's coming and he has to answer more questions, and he may pick a forum to go deeper," Tilghman said. "I think he was using this as a small step to return to the golf world and open up communication with the public."
Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284.