Making his first public appearance in nearly three months, Tiger Woods said Friday he was sorry for the actions that betrayed his marriage, is in continuing rehabilitation and implored the news media to leave his family alone.
“For all that I have done, I am so sorry,” said Woods, 34, reading from a prepared statement. Among those present was his mother, Kultida. His wife, Elin Nordegren was not. “I had affairs; I cheated. What I did was not acceptable, and I am the only person to blame.”
An early-morning car accident Nov. 27 outside Woods’ home in Florida set in motion a series of revelations and accusations of numerous extramarital affairs.
Reaction to his statement was mixed.
Before his round at the Accenture Match Play tournament here, Stewart Cink said, “It’s hard for me to understand, not having been there myself. But he’s a tough guy and I think he can overcome this. What he did today was all part of the process.”
Amy Alcott, a Hall of Fame golfer, said she felt Woods was sincere.
“I’m glad he came out and talked publicly,” she said. “People have been waiting for some kind of statement. It’s a difficult thing to speak those words for somebody who is such a dynamic presence in his sport. To have to come out and be human. As Will Rogers said, ‘It’s great to be great, but it’s greater to be human.’ ”
Attorney L. Lin Wood, who has represented, among others, the young woman in Kobe Bryant’s sexual assault case, said Woods, who spoke for 14 minutes and took no questions, had made a mistake in choosing the format of his statement.
“It was too scripted, too staged,” Wood said. “The format he chose was the wrong format in front of the wrong audience at the wrong time. It gives the appearance of insecurity. If he was going to make a public statement, he should have waited until he finished treatment or until he had a resolution with his wife or until he was willing to go back to work.”
The tightly controlled appearance, broadcast live on every major network, took place at the clubhouse at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., home of the PGA Tour. In the front row of the small audience of friends and associates was Commissioner Tim Finchem.
“I ran straight through the boundaries that a married couple should live by,” Woods said, reading from his text. “I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to. I felt that I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me. I felt I was entitled. Thanks to money and fame, I didn’t have to go far to find them.
“I was wrong and I was foolish. I don’t get to play by different rules. The same boundaries that apply to everyone apply to me. I brought this shame on myself. I hurt my wife, my kids, my mother, my wife’s family, my friends, my foundation and kids all around the world who admired me.”
Woods also chastised the news media.
“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. 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, in a dark suit and a collared dress shirt without a tie, stood at a lectern in front of cascading dark blue velvet drapes. At the end of his statement he hugged his mother, who also spoke briefly.
“I said, ‘I’m so proud of you. Never think you stand alone. Mom will always be there for you and I love you,’ ” she said, reported the Associated Press, one of three wires services invited. The Golf Writers Assn. of America was invited to send three pool reporters, but its board of directors voted not to participate because questions were not allowed.
Career on hold
Woods didn’t specify when he would return to the game that made him perhaps the most famous athlete in the world, with 71 career tour wins and 14 major championship victories, only four behind all-time leader Jack Nicklaus.
“I do plan to return to golf one day,” Woods said. “I just don’t know when that day will be.
“I don’t rule out that it will be this year. When I do return, I need to make my behavior more respectful of the game.”
Finchem was asked later when he thought Woods might return.
“My sense is that he will play when he’s ready and when he thinks he can compete,” Finchem said. “When he’s prepared to say, when he’s prepared to do that, take that step, I’m sure he’ll let us know. But I have no timeline in my own mind.”
In his statement, Woods also issued angry denials. He said he had never used performance-enhancing drugs and that any reports to the contrary were false. He said emphatically that his wife, Nordegren, never committed any violence against him, despite reports that she was attacking him when she smashed his SUV window with a golf club.
Civil attorney Gloria Allred and her client, Veronica Siwik-Daniels, also known as Joslyn James in her career as a porn star, held a news conference after Woods’ statement. Allred said Siwik-Daniels had had a three-year relationship with Woods.
“We’re bitterly disappointed he didn’t apologize to my client,” Allred said. “Who is he saying he’s sorry to? Not Veronica and she’s a victim, the same as his wife.”
Golfer Alcott said she understood Woods’ situation. “People all over the world suffer from addictive behavior,” she said. “We had it in our family. My father was a compulsive gambler and it’s something that almost destroyed our family. We kept it very quiet and when I see someone like Tiger up there, trying to undergo a program, it just shines a light on his humanness.”
Dr. David Sack, chief executive of Promises Treatment Centers and an expert in sexual addictions, said he believed that Woods’ appearance was part of a program similar to an Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step process, where apologies have to be made and responsibility taken.
“If someone, as Tiger seems to imply he does, has narcissistic issues, that the rules don’t apply to them, therapy must go in a certain direction because sometimes the urges can be very mechanical and intrusive, more like a compulsive-obsessive disorder,” Sack said.
Most of Woods’ many corporate sponsors indicated support Friday, although a spokesman for Accenture, the first major company to drop Woods after the scandal broke, said it had no reaction.
But Nike and Electronic Arts Inc., which have stood by Woods, reiterated their support in separate statements.
“Tiger has apologized and made his position clear,” the Nike statement said. “Nike fully supports him and his family. We look forward to him returning to golf.”
EA Sports President Peter Moore said, “It was good to see Tiger address the public today and we’re supportive of his focus toward family and rebuilding his life.” Woods is on the cover of EA’s video game “Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10.”
Although much has been made of how golf has suffered during Woods self-imposed hiatus, Finchem, the commissioner, said he wasn’t overly concerned about the financial effect.
“Candidly, there aren’t any direct implications in the short-term and when I say short-term I mean in the next year or two,” Finchem said, adding that he thinks television ratings are the crucial factor.
But Stephen Master, vice president of Nielsen Sports division of the television ratings firm, said that after the first three tournaments of this season -- the Bob Hope Classic, Farmers Insurance Open and Northern Trust Open -- ratings for PGA golf were up 29% from 2009, when Woods missed several early tournaments while recovering from knee surgery.
“The PGA has to be very happy with that,” Master said. “To me that shows that, yes, golf is going to survive and be fine.”
When Woods comes back, he will find some support on the tour.
“One of the first things that comes to my mind is one of my favorite stories in the Bible,” veteran golfer Ben Crane said. “It talks about a woman who has sinned and she’s been a prostitute and everyone brings her before Jesus and says shouldn’t we stone her? Shouldn’t we kill her for all these bad things that she’s ever done? And Jesus says, yes, absolutely, stone her. But you without sin be the one to cast the first stone. That’s my favorite story.
“I thought it was an amazing conference. I thought Tiger was very humble.”