Reporting from Marana, Ariz. — 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.