Elin Nordegren's Next Move: Tiger Woods' Wife Could Sway Public Opinion

Experts split on whether Woods' wife should show up to Friday's appearance.

Feb. 18, 2010— -- Tiger Woods appears to be preparing a professional comeback, but the actions of his spurned wife may play the biggest role in repairing his image.

Speculation about whether Elin Nordegren will stand by her husband's side Friday as he delivers his first public statement in three months has run rampant, with sports and relationship experts saying her presence, or lack thereof, could mean more than whatever Woods has to say.

Family therapist and relationship expert Terry Real said Nordegren's attendance at Friday's news conference would signal a united front that could be critical to Woods' billion-dollar empire.

And her forgiveness -- or her refusal to forgive -- may sway the rest of the country to follow suit. "If she falls, America may fall," he said.

Her presence at the news conference would say, "I'm not saying I'm blissfully happy, but I am standing by this man for the moment," he said.

But Los Angeles public relations expert Howard Bragman said Nordegren should let her husband go it alone.

If she appears standing next to her man, Bragman said, "I think that's really going to be greeted with a lot of cynicism.

"I don't think she should be the story," he said. "I think this is one time when he has to go into the lion's pen by himself and not have Elin by his side."

But Nordegren has been a big part of the story since Woods' Thanksgiving Day car accident prompted a stunning fall from grace and the revelation that he'd had several mistresses while maintaining a squeaky-clean image for the public.

The couple is reportedly in counseling. Real said Nordegren has every reason to want to make demands of Woods.

"She has to have him on probation," the therapist said. "You have to be brain dead to welcome him with open arms."

Real, who has not counseled the couple, said it's common for the cheater in the relationship to feel relief and a sense of being ready to move on. But the spouse who gets left behind faces a whirlwind of emotion that could last for a long time.

"Elin must be reeling from trauma," Real said. "This is just a baseball bat to the head for the woman."

Nordegren Stepping Out on the Town

Although Nordegren has kept her silence since the accident, she hasn't exactly been in hiding. In the past three months, she has been living in a rented house not far from her home with Woods. She has been active in public with her children, her mother and her sister, even taking a ski trip to the French Alps to celebrate her 30th birthday last month.

She was spotted Tuesday at a Florida Starbucks, without her wedding ring. And she was seen dressed up and out on the town Saturday with girlfriends.

A People magazine cover story out this week details Nordegren's attempt to revive her marriage, which had been in trouble well before the public knew it.

"She has laid out some demands for Tiger, laid out some things she wants him to do and she's kind of holding the cards right now," People's Steve Helling told "Good Morning America."

"Elin has always hated divorce because her parents were divorced and she always felt a little bit disjointed having to spend some time with her mother and some time with her father," Helling said. "She doesn't want to do that to her children."

But what goes on behind closed doors may not be as important as what happens in public, Bragman said.

Before the scandal broke, the only image of Woods the public was offered was a "caricature of a wonderful, good-looking family man."

Real said he would advise Woods to seek therapy if he hasn't and to continue attending meetings and counseling even as he tries to repair his personal and professional life.

Give Nordegren access to everything, he advised, and make his life an open book to her.

"His nightmare is over. Her nightmare is just beginning," he said. "They're in very different places."