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Original Issue

Playing to The Crowd

The golf star was back at his day job. Pollen mottled pristine Augusta National last Thursday, leaving a Cheetos-like residue on the table at the 1st tee as the starter announced the next player up: Tiger Woods. A Masters gallery thickened by curiosity seekers politely applauded Woods upon his return from a sex-scandal bunker, drowning out the hum of a prop plane dragging a banner (TIGER: DID YOU MEAN BOOTYISM?) that mocked his pledge to get back to his religious roots. Inside the ropes, on his stage, Woods winked, smiled and made eye contact with the supportive patrons—as if he really cared.

The porn star was back at her night job. Neon-lit cigarette smoke curled inside Atlanta's Pink Pony strip club, about two hours from Augusta, where ESPN highlights of Woods's first round rolled on the bar's five flat screens moments before the deejay delighted the larger than normal crowd by shouting, "Please welcome ... mistress number 11." A wild cheer greeted 32-year-old Joslyn James as she sauntered into the strobe lights, wrapping her Jessica Rabbit body around a fireman's pole, all while wearing little more than a knockoff of a Masters green jacket. "Show me what Tiger got," pleaded one patron. Joslyn soon complied. She tossed the jacket. She winked, smiled and made eye contact with the fantasizing faithful—as if she really cared.

"I'm playing a character," James said the next morning. "I was with Tiger for three years. He always wanted me to get out of the adult industry because he didn't like the thought of me with another man. I told him that's a role I play. I get my paycheck, go home and enter my front door as Veronica [Siwik-Daniels]. That's me. I'm not the character I play at work."

At least the porn star is honest about faking it. The golf star is not. For years Tiger brushed through the crowds, basically leaving their high fives hanging and autograph books empty. He kept his distance from the awestruck legions that reached out to him, as if a handshake would require a Purell bath. Then, on Thanksgiving, he crashed his SUV into a hydrant, and a public portal was opened to his infidelities. Three months later, in a public statement, Tiger began rebuilding his brand as much as repairing his personal life. At Augusta he autographed items for children and even fist-bumped a fan. "Now he's [practically] kissing babies out there," said James. "He needs [the fans] to prop him up. He's using them."

Who's the phony now? Tiger has been known to roll his eyes at the pleaser instincts of Phil Mickelson, the celebrated family man with the aw-shucks humility. What had seemed like normal tension and jealousy between rivals might instead have been Tiger's arrested development in action. Look at both men on Sunday: Tiger wore his trademark red shirt—a cute move in his 20s but shtick in his 30s—while Mickelson wore black, which highlighted the pink ribbon he wore on his hat in support of his mother, Mary, and wife, Amy, who are both battling breast cancer. Look at their demeanors: Tiger's vow to channel rainbows and kittens on the course ended with an expletive-laced third round, while Mickelson, as usual, kept it clean. Look at their finishes: Phil hit his last putt capping his third Masters victory and then kissed Amy with a tear rolling down his cheek, while Tiger took off with his agent after offering a surly dissection of his play, without thanking fans or congratulating the champ, in his postround CBS interview.

This wasn't just a morality play unfolding. It was also a tale of Phil's growth in sharp relief to Tiger's regression. After a breezy first two rounds Woods grew more frustrated and tense as the weekend went on. "I got worse," he said of his game. Given the revelations about his insatiable sexual appetite, it's normal to ask the obvious: Was Woods showing the effects of missing his mistresses when he couldn't summon up his usual Sunday charge? "I was with him at a lot of tournaments," James said. "That's where he needed me to be." So what insight does a porn star have? More than we can gain from most PGA Tour players, who never see Woods away from the course, or from associates kept in the dark for years, or from an enabling group of friends who don't speak to the public. "His inner circle knew about me," James said. "I didn't imagine sitting next to [Woods's friend] Bryon Bell at dinner. Tiger is still lying about that. He's in denial about a lot of things.... I'd say for all of us involved—all the women—Tiger let us see what he wanted us to see. He was someone different for everyone. He is whatever he needs to be in the moment."

At the Masters, Woods was a practicing Buddhist with a bracelet around his wrist inside the safe gates of Augusta National. It was the perfect site for his comeback, a club with a history of failing to square its private policies with its public persona. It cruises along in its hypocrisy. "Business as usual," Tiger said after his first round. Outside the gates the news kept coming: A report surfaced alleging Woods had had sex with a neighbor. And the mockery never stopped: The Nike ad showing a silent Tiger with a creepy voice-over from his dead father was parodied on Saturday Night Live. Tiger's defense strategy was simple: Cozy up to the fans for protection. In other words, just fake it.

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For years Tiger kept his distance from the legions that reached out to him. "Now he's [practically] kissing babies," said the porn star. "He's using them."