Dec. 15, 2009 -- Tiger Woods didn't have to go this route.
Why did he get married? It's the question so many seem to be wondering as the disgraced pro golfer takes an indefinite hiatus from the sport, mired in a sand trap of allegations of cheating on his wife, Elin Nordegren, not once, not twice, but scores of times with at least a dozen different women.
Woods' infidelity goes against what he said in an interview conducted in Melbourne, Australia early last month, when he was playing in the Australian Masters. The interview was scheduled to be aired Dec. 25 but New Zealand's Sky Sport screened it today in wake of the golfer's sex scandal.
Asked in the interview "family first and golf second ... always been that way?" Woods replied: "Always. Always."
"Always?" Reports beg to differ. Whether because of a sex addiction, the thrill of the chase, a self-destructive streak or some combination thereof, Woods apparently took on partner after partner to satisfy his urges. In American culture, after marriage, and especially after two children, that's just not OK.
But had Woods stayed single, would anyone have cared about what he did off-course?
Probably not. Derek Jeter, George Clooney and John Mayer prove that Woods could've excelled in his career and played the field without hurting his reputation. Below, check out three examples Woods could have followed.
When Jeter broke into Major League Baseball as the starting shortstop for the New York Yankees in 1996, his batting average was as hot a topic as his social life. Tabloids jumped all over his relationship with Mariah Carey, which reportedly started when he showed up on the set of one of her music videos in 1997. She surprised him at spring training the following March, leading fellow Yankee Tim Raines to crack, "Is this baseball or 'Entertainment Tonight?'" Whatever it was, it wasn't true love -- Jeter and Carey broke up in June '98, but that was just the beginning of his illustrious run as a bachelor. Jeter went on to date former Miss Universe Lara Dutta, singer Joy Enriquez, actress Jordana Brewster and TV host Vanessa Minillo. The list of famous females he's rumored to have hooked up with, including Scarlett Johansson, Gabrielle Union, Jessica Alba, and Minka Kelly, is the stuff of locker room legend.
Jeter, now 35, hasn't slid through the single life unscathed. In late 2002, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner lambasted Jeter for staying out until 3 a.m. at a birthday party, alleging that the well-compensated shortstop "wasn't totally focused" and his partying "didn't sit well" with management. But Jeter made commercial success out of that controversy the following year, when he and Steinbrenner appeared in an ad for Visa club hopping and mocking the incident. As the Visa example shows, sponsors don't care about the shortstop's status as a man about town: Nike, Gatorade, Ford, and Gillette are among the many companies who've endorsed Jeter.
He refuses to commit, but Clooney remains one of the movie industry's most universally coveted men. The 48-year-old Oscar-winning actor rose above Hollywood's hoi polloi with his Greek god looks, signature suaveness and a catalog of hits. (It's hard to call the first person in Academy Awards history to be nominated for directing one movie ("Good Night and Good Luck") and acting in another ("Syriana"), in the same year, a cad.)
Little known fact: Clooney was married to actress Talia Balsam from 1989 to 1993, before he scored his breakout role on "E.R." But for as long as audiences have known him, Clooney's been single, and staunchly so. After a five-year on-again, off-again romance with British model Lisa Snowdon, Clooney dated model/reality TV star/cocktail waitress Sarah Larson. During their relationship, in October 2007, he bet Michelle Pfeiffer $100,000 that he would never wed again -- one of Clooney's many quips about never wanting to settle down. In keeping with that promise, Clooney and Larson soon split. This year, he began dating Italian TV host Elisabetta Canalis.
Unlike Clooney, Mayer has had a tougher time maintaining a respectable reputation while crafting pop ditties and bedding a bevy of beauties. But that may be less because of his behavior and more because of what he says about it.
For instance: in 2002, Mayer dated actress Jennifer Love Hewitt, whose figure reportedly inspired his Grammy award winning hit, "Your Body Is a Wonderland." Four years later, he joked to the crowd at Hollywood's Laugh Factory that he never consummated his relationship with Hewitt because of a bout of food poisoning brought on by bad fish. Mayer later told Us Weekly that he apologized to Hewitt immediately after his impromptu, questionably raunchy appearance and that he "was really just making fun of myself."
Mayer's gaffe with his ex-girlfriend hasn't stopped some of Hollywood's hottest honies from flocking to his side. The singer has dated Jennifer Aniston, Jessica Simpson and Minka Kelly -- the same star Jeter also may or may not have wooed. And, as "Your Body Is a Wonderland's" commercial and critical success shows, he's managed to turn his penchant for the ladies into profit. If only Woods could say the same.