Golf pro Tiger Woods ended nearly three months of silence Friday to speak publicly for the first time about the marital infidelities that led to his public fall from grace. In what many say was a scripted and highly managed appearance at PGA Headquarters in Florida, the world's number one golfer apologized for letting down his fans and talked about his past, his present and his future.
By far the best known golfer in the world, Tiger Woods, has been in hiding since the bizarre accident outside his Florida home in November that led to his stunning fall from grace.
Since then, admissions of infidelity and revelations about extramarital relationships have become fodder for the tabloids.
On Friday, a composed but contrite Woods spoke to a small group of reporters and friends to apologize. "I hurt my wife, my kids, my mother, my wife's family, my friends. I am deeply sorry for my irresponsible and selfish behavior I engaged in," he said.
Woods spoke for more than 13 minutes in a tightly controlled setting that was covered live by the major television networks. Many journalists boycotted the event because questions were not allowed. But Woods did offer some insight into his indiscretions. "I felt I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me. I felt I was entitled," he said.
Woods was clearly hoping to put the scandal behind him, but whether his public apology will help or hinder his career remains to be seen. "I do plan to return to golf one day, I just don't know when that day will be," he said.
Criticism has already been leveled at Woods for the timing of his statement - coming in the middle of the first big golfing event of the year - the Accenture Match Play championship in Arizona.
Accenture was the first sponsor to drop Woods after the scandal broke. USA Today columnist Christine Brennan said, "Maybe this is an in your face moment for him. It's certainly not a nice moment. It is not a gentlemanly thing to do to steal the spotlight from all of his peers."
Professional Golf Association commissioner Tim Finchem doubts the timing of the event was a deliberate slap. But Finchem acknowledges Tiger's presence almost always guarantees a larger TV audience. "The good news from today is that one, he plans to return, two, he could return as early as this year, and three, he clearly has taken the first very visible step in the road to that return. All of that pleases us a great deal," he said.
Woods has been in treatment at a sex addiction facility in Mississippi and plans to go back to resolve his personal problems. Woods and his wife Elin are reportedly in counseling. She was conspicuously absent on Friday. People Magazine's Steve Helling says what she does next could have a strong bearing on Tiger's future. "If Elin decides to forgive him and to stay with him, I think we will see a lot of his fans deciding to do the same," he said.
But some say Tiger Woods' future is in his own hands. With golf's most prestigious event - the Master's Tournament - just weeks away, many people are wondering whether Golf's biggest star is ready for a comeback.