“I was unfaithful, I had affairs, I cheated,” the world’s number 1 golfer said, “I’m the only person to blame. “I convinced myself that normal rules did not apply. I thought only about myself… I was wrong.”
Woods, 34, said that he may return to golf this year but has not set a date for his comeback.
He has been out of the public eye since crashing his car into a fire hydrant and a tree outside his Florida home in November last year and subsequent revelations about numerous affairs.
Surrounded by a small group of “friends, colleagues and close associates” among whom was Arnold Palmer, the golfer gave the statement at PGA Tour headquarters in Florida. It was broadcast on all major television networks in the US.
“I would ask for your help, I would ask you to find room in your heart to one day believe in me again,” he said.
Since the 14-time major champion was revealed to have been unfaithful speculation has raged over whether he would return to competition and renew his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ record 18 major titles
“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 but when I do return I need to make my behaviour more respectful of the game…. I look forward to seeing my fellow players on the course,” he said.
“I’m deeply sorry for my irresponsible and selfish behaviour.”
Reading from a statement, an at times emotional Woods said: “Every one of you has good reason to be critical of me.”
“I thought that I had worked hard my entire life… I felt that I was entitled to all the temptations… I was wrong, I was foolish, the same boundaries that apply to everyone else apply to me. I brought this shame upon myself, I hurt my wife, my kids my mother.”
Fame and fortune had made “temptations” easy to come across he admitted in a repeated apology.
His wife Elin Nordegren had pointed out to him that his apology must be matched by a change in his behaviour, he said. “We have a lot to discuss however what we say to each other will remain between the two of us.”
He dismissed reports that his wife had attacked him with a golf club on the night of the car crash that led to the discovery of his affairs, adding:
“There has never been an episode of domestic violence in our marriage, ever.” He added: “It’s up to me to start living a life of integrity. It’s hard to admit that I need help but I do.”
No questions were allowed and only a hand-picked group of journalists were allowed into the room.
The golf writers association of America refused their invitations saying the restrictions were not what they expected from a news conference.
Woods had initially denied infidelity and only said he was sorry for “indiscretions”.
But a string of allegations from more than a dozen women who said they had slept with him, including a socialite, an escort, a pancake waitress and a porn star, forced the golfer to apologise to his wife and two children and admit he was addicted to sex with women other than his wife.
Lucrative contracts with sponsors, including Gillette and Accenture were terminated after the scandal which damaged the billionaire’s carefully crafted squeaky clean image.
“My behaviour has caused considerable worry to my business partners,” he said.
He is believed to have spent six weeks being treated for sex addiction in a clinic in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
“I’ve got a long way to go,” he said but added that he was now taking the “first steps in the right direction”. He will return to the clinic tomorrow after a week-long break from the clinic visiting his wife and children. The golfer’s five-year marriage to the Swedish ex-model was put in jeopardy by the scandal and the golfer refused to say whether the couple would stay together.
“I understand people have questions… I understand people want to know whether Elin and I will remain together. As far as I’m concerned everyone of those questions is a matter between Elin and me, these are issues between a man and wife.”
The golfer, who looked visibly moved as he hugged his mother Kultida Woods after the statement, said he had strayed from the path of Buddhism which she had brought him up to believe in and the belief was helping him in his recovery.
“I need to recover my balance, my centre, so I can save the things most important to me, my marriage and children,” he said.
At the start of December Woods announced he would be taking an indefinite break from the golfing circuit. His decision to make his first public comments today was criticised by some in the golfing world because it has taken the spotlight off the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Tucson, Arizona. Times Online