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04.05.10

The Elin Strategy

Tiger Woods' wife's failure to attend his press conference Monday is all part of her post-scandal approach, revolutionary for a jilted high-profile spouse: Neither stand by your man nor ditch him.

s failure to attend his press conference Monday is all part of her post-scandal approach, revolutionary for a jilted high-profile spouse: Neither stand by your man nor ditch him.

Elin Nordegren, the Swedish cipher apparently still married to Tiger Woods, did not attend the troubled golfer’s pre-Masters press conference on Monday afternoon. Instead, she did what she always does: schlepped her two kids around Orlando, all elfin and inscrutable behind her reflective sunglasses, giving not the slightest indication of what on earth she could possibly be thinking.

By now, this is to be expected from Mrs. Woods. Apart from the occasional trip to the gas station, she’s barely said a word or made a move in the four months since this whole ordeal began, confounding those of us who’ve come to expect an up-or-down verdict on high-profile marriages mere moments after a cheating scandal first comes to light.

She says nothing. She doesn’t flinch. She just stands there before a crowd of paparazzi, filling up the enormous tank of her gleaming SUV, scene of so many marital crimes.

Jacob Bernstein: The Woman Behind Tiger’s Other WomenIs she leaving? Is she staying? How could she possibly stay, after the strippers and the sexts and the particularly stomach-turning “tampon incident,” as reported in this month’s Vanity Fair? Is she negotiating the terms of a major payout and then she’ll leave quietly once Woods has won a few tournaments and the scandal dies down? Are they in couples’ therapy? Are they having another kid?

“NEW PHOTOS: Elin Nordegren Picks Up Daughter at School”: This is all we know.

Enough other women have dealt with the “other woman” problem before, with teams of high-priced lawyers and crisis managers, that there are, at this point, two well-established paths. You get it together and appear upright, at his side. Or you put out a series of damning press releases, with clockwork precision, foreshadowing—and ultimately filing for—a divorce.

Nordegren has eschewed both strategies, opting instead to chart a new, third course for the high-profile jilted spouse. She has neither stood by her man nor ditched him. She isn’t going the Silda Spitzer route or the Jenny Sanford route—or any discernible route, except the one to and from her daughter’s school.

Her strategy most closely resembles that of David Letterman’s never-seen wife Regina Lasko, who maintained her nonexistent public profile in the wake of the Late Show host’s blackmailing case last October. The virtues of this approach are clear: If you’re capable of being boring, it behooves you to be so. Eventually, in theory, the photographers will go find someone else’s wife and mistresses to bother.

Apart from a lively Thanksgiving holiday, the Woodses have boring down to an art. While the humbled golfer droned on for 45 minutes Monday about his nonuse of steroids and his plans to give his sport the respect it deserves, his ethereal Nordic wife packed up her daughter’s Dora the Explorer knapsack and ran errands.

Day after day, Nordegren gives photographers the dullest show ever. On Friday, she dressed her son, Charlie, in a Beatles T-shirt with a peace sign on the front and took him to the Sony Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, Florida, and kept her sunglasses on the entire time. Then she took him on a “double date” with Roger Federer and his wife and wore a different pair of sunglasses but still never showed her eyes.

There have been reports of drama and tender moments. They’re living together! They’re not living together! An “eyewitness” in their Orlando neighborhood spotted the couple kissing, but there are no photos to prove it. There are only photos of Nordegren in her yoga pants and aviators, day in and day out, pumping gas into the Woods family Escalade.

Is this the same Escalade in which Mindy Lawton claims to have removed the now-famous feminine hygiene product, at Woods’ request? Is it the same one Nordegren herself reportedly bashed in with a nine-iron after calling up alleged alpha mistress Rachel Uchitel on her husband’s phone? Are they in the process of reconciling? Or is something more transactional happening behind all those tinted windows?

She says nothing. She doesn’t flinch. She just stands there before a crowd of paparazzi, filling up the enormous tank of her gleaming SUV, scene of so many marital crimes. No one spends more time pumping gas than Elin Nordegren. Exxon should hire her as a spokesmodel.

At Monday’s press conference, Woods said he didn’t expect his wife to attend the tournament. He addressed the “split lip” incurred over Thanksgiving without addressing how it was incurred and without saying anything else about the state of his marriage. He blamed the media for causing so much of his suffering over the last few months, then called many of the reporters in the audience his friends and pleasantly answered their mostly friendly questions.

With that, the Tiger Woods scandal petered out. Even his mistress army and its leader, Gloria Allred, beat a quiet retreat. The next move, if there is one, is Nordegren’s to make.

In the meantime: What’s Jesse James up to these days?

Rebecca Dana is a senior correspondent for The Daily Beast. A former editor and reporter for The Wall Street Journal, she has also written for The New York Times, The New York Observer, Rolling Stone, and Slate, among other publications.