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Sarah Hampson's Currency

Whether it's hush cash or a Kobe special, Tiger's paying Add to ...

I am losing count.

And I don't mean just of the alleged mistresses connected to Tiger Woods. As of yesterday, we were up to mistress No. 7 when the New York Daily News reported that Holly Sampson, a porn star, was the latest. Before that, the same newspaper named Cori Rist, described as "a Manhattan club-goer" as No. 6. This sex scandal is turning into a juggernaut the size of the PGA tour.

Also mounting - no pun intended - was the cost of infidelity. (And that's not including the cost of divorce, should that be the outcome.)

We like to think that intimacy and money are only linked in prostitution. It fits with the cultural view that money is dirty: When it's used to pay for an explicit sexual transaction, well, we shake our heads in a sort of knowing disgust.

But money and sex, not to mention love, are inextricably linked.

Consider the "Kobe special." That's how people - including, reportedly, Mr. Woods - routinely refer to the 8-carat rare purple diamond that Kobe Bryant bought his wife Vanessa in 2003, days after Colorado prosecutors announced that the NBA star was being charged with the rape of a 19-year-old woman. (He was later cleared of the charge.)

The diamond ring's cost? $4-million.

Mr. Bryant, too, expressed regret for his transgressions, saying he was "furious at myself for making the mistake of adultery." His wife, he said, is his "backbone … a blessing."

Right. The ring was just a show of love. He wasn't really buying her affection, because that's supposed to be a priceless, intimate thing that no one can make you give, let alone sell.

Now, Mr. Woods is taking the concept of infidelity payments to a new level, and in the process exposing the truth about that perfectly common ménage à trois involving love, sex and money.

Along came news last week that Mr. Woods's wife of five years, Elin Nordegren, was renegotiating their pre-nup. She would get an immediate $5-million payout to stay for the short term, and $55-million to remain by his side for two more years, The Daily Beast reported.

Some people might think it was hungry lawyers who were urging Ms. Nordegren to fry her husband while the pan was hot. The couple, who have two children, are in "intense marriage counselling," sources say, so maybe they really want to make it work and put their family back together.

That's being nice - and naive. A cynic - and by that I mean anyone inured to the ways of the world - would say that she understands the cost of a show of love. It could save his brand, after all, which is worth a fortune. She holds the key to his redemption, and two more years of marriage, however fake, combined with a few photo ops of them together, smiling, are enough to make people's memories of the scandal fade. She'd be crazy not to see that such wifely support should come at a price.

But what was truly shocking about Mr. Woods's extramarital fling-a-thon was his own naiveté in thinking that his sex partners would not betray him by putting a price on both their willingness to tell all and their silence.

Did he think that he was the only one who treated the sexual liaisons as meaningless transactions? He could pay for a night in a fancy hotel (at the very least) in exchange for sex, but he never worried that they might see their connection to him as a money-making endeavour?

Was Jaimee Grubbs paid for giving the incriminating voice-mail as well as the numerous sext-messages from him to the tabloid press? It's hard to believe that she was not. Oh, and bets are on that she will be appearing on more reality shows.

On Thursday last week, Rachel Uchitel, mistress No. 1 if you go by the order of revelations, abruptly cancelled a press conference that was to have been held by power attorney Gloria Allred. It was widely believed that while Ms. Uchitel initially denied a tabloid report that she was involved with Mr. Woods, she was going to admit to the affair. But in last-minute negotiations between Ms. Allred and Mr. Woods's team, a price was put on Ms. Uchitel's silence. The cost? Between $1-million and $3-million, Radaronline.com reports.

Are the mistresses, with their Tiger tales, any different than Ashley Dupré, the escort (cost: between $1,000 and $5,500 an hour) who took down former New York governor Eliot Spitzer?

Of course, the greatest cost of infidelity is an emotional one. I'm sure that no matter how much a wronged spouse gets in gifts or cash payments, or even in a divorce, the loss of faith and trust is never quite compensated for.

It's so interesting how money builds up people like Mr. Woods - his wealth was equal to his golfing skill - and how, in the wake of a scandal like this, it tarnishes them, too. He is using money to try to plug the holes in his sinking life - how gauche and sad.

What he should do is go on Oprah to tell his side of the story, tear up a bit about his faults, his human foibles, and his love for his family.

An Oprah redemption! Now, that's both free and price-less!

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