Tiger Woods begs forgiveness for 'selfish and foolish' behaviour
In a 14-minute confessional delivered to a global audience of millions, Tiger Woods today begged forgiveness after his spectacular fall from grace, apologising for his "selfish and foolish" behaviour in the hope of rebuilding his shattered personal life and repairing his tarnished image.
Speaking in public for the first time since his carefully cultivated persona as a dedicated family man was shattered by a string of alleged affairs, the world's richest sportsman appeared before a hand-picked audience of 40 people including his mother, Kultida, friends and agents. Woods looked straight into a camera and admitted: "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."
It was the first time Woods's voice had been heard in public since he ran his car over a fire hydrant and into a tree outside his Florida home on 27 November last year. As the story snowballed and a slew of reports linked him with a string of affairs, corporate sponsors backed away and he retreated from public life.
"The issue involved here was my repeated irresponsible behaviour. I was unfaithful. I had affairs. I cheated. What I did was not acceptable and I am the only person to blame. I stopped living by the core values that I was taught to believe in," said Woods, wearing a suit and appearing at a podium in what seemed an uncomfortably stilted setting.
Woods, who at 34 is just five major championships away from becoming the most successful golfer of all time, barely mentioned the sport except to say he was unsure when he would return.
"I need to regain my balance and be centred so I can save the things that are most important to me – my marriage and my children," said the father of two.
Woods said he had spent 45 days in therapy "receiving guidance for the issues I am facing" and admitted publicly for the first time he had cheated on his wife of five years, Elin Nordegren. He had previously referred only to his "transgressions".
"I knew my actions were wrong but I convinced myself normal rules didn't apply. I never thought about who I was hurting," he said. "Instead I thought only about myself. I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to. I felt 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, I was foolish. I don't get to play by different rules."
Yet even as he threw himself on the mercy of the watching audience, Woods simultaneously appealed for privacy so he could try and repair his marriage.
There were flashes of anger as he rejected suggestions he had taken performance enhancing drugs and denied reports Nordegren had attacked him on the Thanksgiving evening that ended with him crashing his car.
He appealed to the media to stay away from his wife and children, saying he had never sought to profit from his family life and wanted "a private space".
"My behaviour does not make it right for the media to follow my two-and-a-half year old daughter to school and report the school's location. They staked out my wife and pursued my mum. Whatever my wrongdoings, for the sake of my family please leave my wife and kids alone."
For a sportsman whose career has been based on maintaining superhuman levels of control in public, there were times when he appeared close to cracking, occasionally stumbling over his words. Reading from a prepared statement, he accepted he had a responsibility as a role model.
"My failures have made me look at myself in a way I never wanted to before. It's up to me to start living a life of integrity," he said. "Achievements on the golf course are only part of setting an example. Character and decency are what really count. Parents used to point to me as a role model for their kids. I owe all those families a special apology. I want to say to you I'm truly sorry."
But even as Woods delivered his mea culpa, critics were beginning to wonder whether his statement wasn't just another example of his advisers' attempts to control his image and begin a carefully stage-managed rehabilitation.
He faced criticism from some PR experts and news organisations for only appearing in front of a select group of "friends, colleagues and close associates" and refusing to take questions.
Ernie Els, a fellow golfer, called Woods "selfish" for making his reappearance during the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, the biggest event of the year so far. Rory McIlroy speculated that "he might want to get something back against the sponsors that dropped him". The tournament is sponsored by Accenture, the firm that dropped Woods as the stream of the lurid publicity became a torrent. AT&T also dropped the golfer but other sponsors including Nike and Gatorade stood by him.
It is little wonder the PGA Tour made the Sunset Room in its sprawling TPC Sawgrass clubhouse available and helped facilitate Woods's appearance. Television ratings double in the US when he plays and ticket sales at PGA events are down an estimated 15 to 20% since Woods began his self-imposed exile.Gurdian UK