PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Tiger Woods re-emerged into public life Friday, issuing another apology for his infidelity at a closely scripted event and affirming he will play golf again – he’s just not sure when.
Speaking before a small group at the TPC Sawgrass clubhouse and a massive television audience, one of the world’s most-recognized athletes repeatedly told his family, sponsors and fans – in essence, everyone connected with him – that he was sorry for his behavior.
“I was unfaithful. I had affairs. I cheated. What I did was not acceptable,” said Woods, looking composed and speaking in a steady voice. His wife, Elin, was not with him.
As for coming back to the PGA Tour, Woods said: “I do plan to return to golf one day. I just don’t know when that day will be. I don’t rule out it will be this year.”
Like Woods’ career itself, the event demanded attention.
The golfer talked for 13 1/2 minutes at the clubhouse, home of the PGA Tour. About 40 people were in the room, including his mother in the front row. All sat quietly as Woods, a billion-dollar brand, spoke from behind a podium backed by a blue curtain. He used the word “sorry” three times and “apology” twice.
When he finished, Woods hugged his mother and she whispered in his ear.
“I said ‘I’m so proud of you. Never think you stand alone. Mom will always be there for you and I love you,'” Kultida Woods said.
Admitting he felt he “deserved to enjoy the temptations” that came with his fabulous success, Woods said he is solely responsible for his actions. “I am deeply sorry for my irresponsible and selfish behavior,” Woods said.
Woods said he was in treatment for 45 days and will return for more therapy, adding he has more work to do to resolve his personal problems.
Woods had not talked in public since his drove his SUV into a tree outside his home in Florida on Nov. 27, triggered shocking revelations about his serial infidelity.
As for his marriage, he said: “Every one of these questions and answers is a matter between Elin and me, issues between a husband and wife.”
“As Elin pointed out to me, my real apology to her will not come in the form of words,” Woods added. “It will come from my behavior over time.”
In Sweden, Elin’s father, Thomas Nordegren, saw Woods’ confession.
“I watched it but I have nothing to say right now,” Nordegren told The Associated Press. Elin’s mother, Barbro Holmberg, declined to comment through her spokeswoman.
Friday’s event was tightly controlled, with only a few journalists allowed to watch Woods live. The confession became a major television event with the networks breaking in to show it.
ABC’s George Stephanopoulos called the speech “one of the most remarkable public apologies ever by a public figure.”
Said golf analyst David Feherty on CBS: “The vast number of people just want their Tiger Woods back.”
Certainly, no other PGA Tour player could command this kind of attention.
But Woods has always been special on the course and in popular culture. Television ratings double when he is in contention, which has happened a lot on his way to winning 71 times on the PGA Tour and 14 majors, four short of the record held by Jack Nicklaus.
No other athlete had such a spectacular fall. Accenture and AT&T have ended their endorsement contracts with him, and Woods has become the butt of jokes on everything from late shows to Disney performances.
“I think that since Day 1, people that know him and people that don’t know him, what I’ve heard from most people is mainly, I mean there’s some anger in some corners, but mainly it is a sense of sadness,” PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said. “He’s an American hero. And he’s had his issues.
“My personal reaction was that his comments were heartfelt. He clearly recognizes that there has been serious impact to a wide range of individuals and organizations.”
Woods’ statement came during the Match Play Championship, sponsored by Accenture, angering some players, including Ernie Els.
Stewart Cink saw part of Woods’ remarks before going to play in the tournament.
“I was moved by how difficult it seemed to be for him,” Cink said. “But it’s a big part of the process to go through that difficulty and to face up to what’s happened. And especially the hurt that other people are feeling, his friends and family.”
The companies that have stuck most closely by Woods, Nike Inc. and Electronic Arts Inc., reiterated their support.
“Tiger has apologized and made his position clear. Nike fully supports him and his family. We look forward to him returning to golf,” the company said in a statement.
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’ appearance drew reaction from all corners, even at the Winter Games in Vancouver.
“It’s a bummer, his personal life,” Olympic gold-medalist Shaun White said. “He’s trying to pick his words very carefully and apologize. I respect that.”
Veronica Siwik-Daniels, one of Woods’ alleged mistresses and a former pornographic performer, watched the event with her attorney in a Los Angeles radio studio. She said she wants an apology for the unwanted attention the scandal has brought her.
“I really feel I deserve to look at him in person face to face in the eyes because I did not deserve this,” she said.
AP Sports Writer Bob Baum in Marana, Ariz., Associated Press writers Antonio Gonzalez in Ponte Vedra Beach, John Rogers in Los Angeles, and AP Retail Writers Ashley Heher in Chicago and Sarah Skidmore in Portland, Ore., contributed to this report.