Published February 19, 2010
Tiger Woods said his apologies on Friday -- and apparently, most Americans believed him, according to a poll conducted in the hours after his news conference.
During the news conference, a somber Tiger Woods apologized for his "selfish and foolish" affairs. It was his first public statement since becoming the center of a sordid sex scandal.
His voice quavering several times during a 13-minute-long statement, the golf legend said he has been in treatment for sexual addiction since December, but still has "a long way to go." He said he would return to treatment tomorrow.
"It's hard to admit that I need help," he said. "But I do."
A national media study of 1,090 Americans conducted by HCD Research revealed 60 percent of people who watched Woods' apology thought he was sincere, with women actually edging out men 61 percent to 58 percent.
The same poll showed 31 percent of viewers saying their perception of the embattled golfer had improved, while 17 percent said it had changed in a negative way.
51 percent said their opinion remained unchanged.
Speaking from the PGA tour's TPC Sawgrass headquarters in Florida, Woods said he was "deeply sorry for my irresponsible and selfish behavior."
As his mother Kultida looked on from a group of around 40 selected friends and family, Woods said he let down his fans and friends, calling his behavior a "personal disappointment." He also accepted full responsibility for his actions, saying "I was unfaithful. I had affairs. I cheated."
The golfer said that the issues between him and his wife Elin Nordegren, who was not at the press conference, would remain private, although he took the time to address reports in the press that his wife had assaulted him the night of his crash.
"Elin never hit me that night, or any other night," Woods said, his voice rising in anger. "There has never been an episode of domestic violence in our marriage."
Woods did not say whether he and his wife would stay together, saying that she told him his deeds, not words, would decide that.
In Sweden, Elin's mother, Barbro Holmberg, declined to comment on Woods' apology, through her spokeswoman Eva Malmborg.
As for his alleged mistresses, Woods did not mention any of the more than one dozen named. Of the affairs, Woods said he felt he "deserved to enjoy the temptations," that came with his success.
"I convinced myself that normal rules didn't apply," he said. "I never thought about who I was hurting. Instead, I thought only about myself ... thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to. I was wrong, I was foolish. I don't get to play by different rules. The same boundaries that apply to everyone apply to me."
Meanwhile, Gloria Allred, an attorney for Woods' alleged mistress Joslyn James, slammed his statements as a "disgrace."
"[James] was in love with him and he told her that he loved her and yet he did not acknowledge their relationship today or apologize to her by name," Allred said. "Today was not an apology, it was a staged public relations stunt."
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."
When Woods finished, he 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 told reporters later.
Woods' statement was made during the Match Play Championship, sponsored by Accenture, the first company to drop Woods as a pitchman.
Meanwhile, Nike, Inc. said Friday that the company "fully supports [Woods] and his family," and that they "look forward to him returning to golf."
Electronic Arts' president said, "We look forward to seeing Tiger back on the golf course when the time is right for him and his family."
Still, not all were happy to hear Woods' apology.
Ernie Els was among players who were upset to learn that Woods had chosen the week of a World Golf Championship for a public appearance that was sure to take attention away from the tournament. "It's selfish," Els told Golfweek magazine.
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem told reporters in Marana, Ariz., earlier this week that he didn't think Woods' appearance would undermine Accenture, and that Woods' handlers "have their own reasons for their schedule."
Finchem cited Woods' need to return to sex addiction therapy as one reason for the timing of his appearance.
The PGA Tour made available its sprawling, Mediterranean-styled clubhouse for the announcement. Finchem said in the letter that Woods' management asked for the facilities, and "we agreed as we would for any member of the PGA Tour."
In the hours leading up to Woods' appearance, it already was shaping up as a major event. Three wire services -- the AP, Reuters and Bloomberg -- were invited. The Golf Writers Association of America was offered a pool of three reporters, negotiated for six reporters, then its board of directors voted overwhelmingly not to participate.
"I cannot stress how strongly our board felt that this should be open to all media and also for the opportunity to question Woods," said Vartan Kupelian, president of the 950-member group.
The public hadn't had a clean look at Woods' face since photos Wednesday of him jogging in his neighborhood outside Orlando. And Woods had not been heard from in nearly three months, since US magazine released a voicemail he allegedly left one of the women to whom he has been romantically linked, warning that Woods' wife might be calling.
Allegations of affairs with over a dozen women followed, making Woods front-page news for all of the wrong reasons.
Woods and Elin Nordegren have two young children.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.