Woods gives apology heard 'round the world

Golfer offers mea culpa, doesn't say when he'll return to game

February 20, 2010|By Jeff Shain | Tribune Newspapers

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — — Expressing remorse for times when "I didn't think normal rules applied," Tiger Woods apologized Friday to his mother, friends, business associates - and by extension, the world - for the affairs that have put his marriage on the rocks and his illustrious career on indefinite hold.

"I know I have bitterly disappointed all of you," he said in a 13 1/2 -minute speech before a private gathering at the TPC Sawgrass clubhouse.

"I have made you question who I am and how I could have done the things I did. I'm embarrassed that I put you in this position. For all that I have done, I am so sorry."

Woods also confirmed that he has spent 45 days undergoing inpatient therapy - though he didn't specify what kind - and that he'll return today for continued treatment. While expressing a desire to return to competitive golf, he left any specifics unanswered.

"I do plan to return to golf one day. I just don't know when that day will be," he said. "I don't rule out that it'll be this year. When I do return, I need to make my behavior more respectful of the game."

To all but his inner circle and those treating him, Friday marked Woods' first sighting since the wee hours of Nov. 27, when he crashed his SUV into a fire hydrant and tree outside his Isleworth driveway.

A dazed Woods was rushed to the hospital, then went into seclusion upon his release. The accident came hard on the heels of a National Enquirer report that Woods was carrying on an affair with Rachel Uchitel, a New York City events planner who reportedly had accompanied the golfer to the Australian Open in November.

In the days that followed, more than a dozen women came forward or were identified in tabloid reports as having had affairs with Woods. Until Friday, Woods' only response came in three brief statements issued on his Web site.

"I was unfaithful," Woods admitted Friday. "I had affairs. I cheated. What I did is not acceptable, and I'm the only person to blame. I stopped living by the core values I was taught to believe in."

Woods' mother, Kultida, was seated near the end of the front row to hear her son's remarks. Also among those in attendance were PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem and fellow tour pro and Stanford roommate Notah Begay III.

Noticeably absent was Elin Woods, the golfer's wife.

"Elin and I have started the process of discussing the damage caused by my behavior," Woods said. "As Elin pointed out to me, my real apology to her will not come in the form of words. It will come in my behavior over time.

"What we say to each other will remain between the two of us. I'm also aware of the pain my behavior has caused those of you in this room. I have let you down, and I have let down my fans."

Woods also took time to chastise the tabloid media - not for reporting his foibles, but for tailing his wife and young children. The couple has a 2 1/2 -year-old daughter, Sam, and 1-year-old son, Charlie.

"My behavior doesn't make it right for the media to follow my 2 1/2 -year-old daughter to school and report the school's location," Woods said.

"They staked out my wife and they pursued my mom.

"Whatever my wrongdoings, for the sake of my family, please leave my wife and kids alone."

Woods also denied speculation that he has used performance-enhancing drugs - a rumor stemming from the arrest of a Canadian doctor, Anthony Galea, who used a radical blood treatment to help Woods recover from knee surgery last year.

Woods left with his mother's words ringing in his ears.

"I said, 'I'm so proud of you,' " she told the three wire service reporters allowed inside the room.

"Never think you stand alone. Mom will always be there for you, and I love you."

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