Woods apologizes to fans, family; No quick return to golf

Woods apologizes to fans, family; No quick return to golf

Tiger Woods on Friday apologized for "irresponsible" behaviour in his first public statement since a November car crash unleashed a storm of revelations about extramarital affairs and stopped his illustrious golfing career in its tracks, dpa reported.

The world's top golfer could not say when he would return to the sport, noting he had let down his family, friends, colleagues and fans.

Woods admitted he had "cheated" on his wife, Elin, a number of times and would re-enter a sex rehabilitation clinic Saturday to help save his marriage of more than five years.

"I know I have bitterly disappointed all of you," Woods said, at times tearful as he spoke before a group of friends and family at the TPC Sawgrass Clubhouse in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. "I am deeply sorry for the irresponsible and selfish behaviour I engaged in."

Woods gave his mother, Kultida, a long hug after speaking for more than 10 minutes, and took no questions from the few media allowed in the room. His wife and two young children did not appear to be present.

Woods, who has stood at the pinnacle of the golfing world for more than a decade, recounted how he had been lured by fame and celebrity into feeling "entitled," abandoning his values and disregarding his Buddhist faith. He admitted his once-stellar reputation as a role model for golf fans and children had been severely tarnished.

"Today I want to ask for your help," he said to fans. "I ask you to find room in your heart to one day believe in me again."

Woods has not played on the PGA Tour and had not appeared in public since he crashed his SUV into a tree outside his house in the middle of the night in late November.

The circumstances of the crash unleashed a series of rumours about Woods' marriage and affairs. He released a statement in December admitting "infidelity" and saying he had quit golf "indefinitely." A number of companies since cancelled sponsorship deals with Woods.

Woods said he would not rule out a return to golf "some time this year," but said his focus in the coming months would be on repairing his private life.

"I do plan to return to golf one day. I just don't know when that day will be," said Woods, who with 17 Major victories over his career trails only the 20 Majors won by Jack Nicklaus.

Woods' choice of making a statement on Friday had drawn the ire of some of the world's top golfers, who were in Arizona for the third day of the Accenture Matchplay Championship, the biggest golfing tournament so far this year.

"Its selfish," South African Ernie Els told Golf Week magazine ahead of Woods' statement. "This takes a lot away from the golf tournament."

Woods said the timing was because he planned to re-enter a rehabilitation clinic on Saturday and that he hoped other players could understand. Woods had already undergone 45 days of treatment from December to February.

"I was unfaithful, I had affairs, I cheated," Woods said. "I have a lot to atone for."

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