COUNT ME among that small minority that doesn't want to see Tiger Woods squirming on Oprah's couch or dishing the dirt with the girls on "The View."

Nor do I want to see him going chin-to-chin with Larry King. I don't want to be part of the conversation the next night when people are parsing whether he was sufficiently contrite or if he had broken down in all the right places.

The devolution should not be televised.

He should not don a hair shirt, dangle his limbs through the holes in a stock or engage in any other form of public self-flagellation.

He doesn't owe me that because I, like most of you if you admit it, never really cared about "the real Tiger Woods" anyway. All this nonsense about how he has betrayed his fans says more about them than him.

How can I be betrayed by a guy who is utterly meaningless to me except for the few hours a week when he is better at his game than anyone else on earth? I speak here of golf. As for his other games, he seems more prolific than proficient.

I can't help feeling sorry for his wife. She may be the only innocent in this seamy saga. "Reliable sources" who claim that he has offered her $5 million to stay with him make her sound like more of a paid nanny now than when she really was one for golfer Jesper Parnevik.

You've got to wonder how a press corps that followed him around the world and missed a dozen trysts can now tell us every codicil and caveat in the contractual ties that bind Tiger and wife Elin.

That's their business. Let them handle it.

I understand why it's so fascinating. I was riveted by all of it for the first few days.

But that's just me. If I had covered the Creation, I would have been off the story by the time the evening and the morning were the third day.

My advice to Tiger: Avoid confessionals or any other box that people want to put you in.

And forget about this "indefinite" leave of absence from the tour. The worst thing Tiger could do right now is to separate himself from the only thing he can do better than anyone else.

Take away his clubs and Tiger becomes Eldrick. Eldrick couldn't sell you a Tag Heuer watch or a pair of Nike Golf shoes if he were your brother-in-law.

All those companies that have defected since Tiger's fall from grace couldn't pick an Eldrick out in a lineup. But they'll write a check to Tiger the minute he works his way back onto the public agenda.

He can't do that by baring his soul in public. He can't do it in exile. He has to get back on course.

The only reason we ever cared about him is that he could hit a 1.68-inch ball 300 yards into a narrow fairway, dial in his second shot with the precision of a caliper and handle a putter as if it were an extension of his wrists.

Michael Jordan became the best pitchman in sports even though he stayed as far from the media as he could. But he couldn't sell you a pair of drawers at a discount if he hadn't been the greatest basketball player of his day.

Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard and Sugar Ray Robinson didn't stand out from the pack just because they were prettier than most fighters. They got our attention because they were the best who ever did it.

Tiger needs to get back on course. A short hiatus may be good. But a long layoff won't help.

He can be a family man on tour. If that is what he wants to be, he should take his family with him as so many other golfers do.

Being a golfer didn't make him cheat, and staying home won't make him faithful.

Send e-mail to smithel@phillynews.com or call 215-854-2512. For recent columns: http://go.philly.com/smith