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Tiger Woods’ biggest mistake- getting married

It’s safe to say Tiger Woods has made his fair share of bad calls.

But one cardinal sin that befalls so many young, successful, cash-laden athletes and celebrities, stands out above the rest.

He got married. When he wasn’t ready.

And it’s costing him his reputation, his privacy, endorsement dollars and professionally worst of all — it’s slowing his quest to chase down Jack Nicklaus and his 18 Major championships.

This is by no means an effort to discount the harsh reality that Elin, Sam and Charlie — not Tiger — are experiencing as the victims of Tiger’s indiscretions.

The short- and long-term consequences they will suffer because of his admitted infidelity are scarring at best and potentially tragic on a personal and family level.

But that’s not what this column’s about. We’re taking a trip to hypothetical land to make a point.

So just for a second, pretend that Tiger wasn’t married and that his “transgressions” became public knowledge through a conduit other than a bizarre post-Thanksgiving clash with a neighborhood fire hydrant (which they probably wouldn’t have).

Imagine that you heard stories about Tiger — a dashing, cool and immensely successful man — spending time with a fashion model in Australia and having trysts with an Escondido-raised reality show hottie (OK– that’s debatable) among any number of other alleged “transgressions” with beautiful women in sunny golf locales.

Would you think differently of him that you did a month ago? Most likely.

Would you still care three weeks later? Probably not.

Those types of transgressions ring more Hugh Hefner than Hugh Grant. And that’s all the difference in the world.

Of course, it depends on whom you ask. Obviously not every walk of American life celebrates the playboy life style.

The more puritanical among us obviously would not think so kindly.

But the average guy — and the average sports fan — would snicker and make a snide comment about how lucky Tiger is before dismissing the story and moving on with his quest to check his fantasy football score.

Think James Bond. Or even better (and less fictional) — Wilt Chamberlain.

As long as he wasn’t leaving a trail of paternity suits or STDs behind, Tiger would only take a minor hit in the big picture of public perception. He’d be celebrated in some circles.

He wouldn’t have brought a world of pain to a beautiful young wife with reports of cheating on her just months into a new marriage.

He wouldn’t suddenly lose sponsorship after spending years as the most marketable name in sports. He wouldn’t be in the headlines three weeks later, nominated as the biggest sports story of the decade.

And he wouldn’t be taking an indefinite leave from golf 14 Major championships into his quest to catch Jack Nicklaus for the most revered record in the sport.

Will he return in time for The Masters in April? If so, will he be competitive? Will he ever be able to regain his previous form in a sport that stands above most others for the intense mental focus and clarity that it requires?

It’s all yet to be seen. He’s opened up an entire new world of distraction to his steely golf game.

The whole mess begs one glaring question:

If you are a young, successful cash-laden athlete/celebrity (or an average guy, for that matter) with an agenda of bedding as many beautiful women as you can, why get married?

The temptation and opportunity will be abundant.

Why bring such scrutiny upon yourself? Why risk so much personally and professionally? Why bring so much pain to the life of a spouse you committed your love to and worse — the children you created together?

It’s a decision that’s all ego and void of rational thought.

If there’s any good to come out of the early morning Escalade crash the day after Thanksgiving, it’s this lesson.

Even Tiger Woods can’t have it all.

Jason Owens is the SDNN sports editor. email: jason.owens(at)sdnn.com