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A Sense of Who He Is

They found Woods right away. He was sprawled out on the bed, fast asleep, tightly clutching his newly won green jacket to his chest. "We couldn't have pried that jacket out of his grasp if we'd wanted to," Nared says.

They let him sleep with it through the night.

More than anything, this sweet story points to the underlying simplicity of Woods's vision, which began when he was a boy and kept a copy of Jack Nicklaus's accomplishments in the majors taped up in his room. Woods wants to win, and his private life is organized to serve that purpose: He doesn't go through binge and recovery cycles, he goes through win and recovery cycles. The Wednesday I caught him in Butch Harmon's office was probably the first post-Masters day, according to one of his handlers, that he would have been capable of spending a full day in public.

Keeping this in mind makes something else Woods told me that day more poignant. In the middle of our discussion about his Buddhist and Asian heritage, Woods paused for a moment to gaze at the ceiling, as if trying to think of a way to convey what these things meant to him. "I think that people try to make things that are simple more complicated than they really are. To me, it's all about balance," he said. He lowered his eyes to look at me again and leveled his hands in the air before him. "I just try to keep everything as simple as possible and as balanced as possible. If I feel something is out of balance, I try to get it back in balance somehow. Your entire life, you're always working to keep everything in balance, because the more harmony there is, the smoother life goes."

We all clamor to know the "real" Tiger Woods, convinced—perhaps by the secretive way he, his friends and his media handlers protect his downtime—that there must be one. And no doubt there are things that would be fun and surprising to know about Woods off the golf course: the scoop about his life with Nordegren, the details of his scuba-diving trips, what he and his dad discuss in their most intimate moments. But my guess is that the Woods we see up close on our TV screens coming down the stretch on Sunday is as much the "real" Woods as there is. These are the moments that he lives for and towards which he marshals all his energy and all his resources: emotional, physical and psychological. For Woods, perhaps uniquely, coming down the stretch may be when life is at its most simple.

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