THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – With a public apology, Tiger Woods disclosed his “personal failings” and acknowledged he had “not been true to my values and the behavior my family deserves.”
He did not mention the allegations of an affair in Wednesday’s statement, saying he would deal with “my behavior and personal failings” alone with his family.
His appeal for privacy likely won’t close a shocking saga involving one of the biggest names in sport.
Rachel Uchitel, a New York nightclub hostess who has denied having an affair with Woods, has scheduled a news conference with her attorney at 11:30 a.m. PST in Los Angeles.
Last week, the National Enquirer published a story alleging the world’s No. 1 golfer had been seeing Uchitel and that they recently were together in Melbourne, where Woods competed in the Australian Masters.
Attorney Gloria Allred said in a statement released Wednesday night that she will make a statement about Uchitel’s relationship with Woods.
In the last week, Woods has faced intense media scrutiny after a car accident outside his home in the middle of the night and sordid allegations of affairs. In a 317-word statement on his Web site Wednesday, Woods acknowledged he had “let my family down and I regret those transgressions with all of my heart.”
The statement followed an Us Weekly cover story of a Los Angeles waitress claiming she had a 31-month affair with the world’s No. 1 golfer. Woods’ words were posted three hours after the magazine released a voice mail – provided by the waitress, Jaimee Grubbs – that Woods left on her phone three days before he rammed his Cadillac Escalade into a fire hydrant and tree outside his Florida home.
“Personal sins should not require press releases and problems within a family shouldn’t have to mean public confessions,” he said on his Web site. “I will strive to be a better person and the husband and father that my family deserves.”
The investigation into Woods’ accident ended Tuesday when the Florida Highway Patrol issued a $164 citation for careless driving. The inspection of his personal life is seemingly just beginning.
Woods’ career – as a golfer, a pitchman and perhaps the most recognized athlete in the world – has been largely without blemish since he turned pro at age 20.
Three of his sponsors – Nike, Gatorade and EA Sports – expressed support or commitment to Woods. Gillette said it had no plans to change its marketing programs. AT&T declined comment.
In the most critical comment from a player, Jesper Parnevik said he owed an apology to Woods’ wife, Elin, a former Swedish model who once worked as a nanny for the Parnevik family.
“We probably thought he was a better guy than he is,” Parnevik told the Golf Channel from West Palm Beach, Fla., where he is in the final stage of PGA Tour qualifying.
Windermere police said Woods’ wife told them she smashed out the back windows of his SUV with a golf club to help get him out after he struck a fire hydrant and tree.
“I would probably need to apologize to her and hope she uses a driver next time instead of a 3-iron,” Parnevik said, adding that he has not spoken to Woods since the accident.
“It’s a private thing, of course,” the Swede said. “But when you are the guy he is – the world’s best athlete – you should think more before you do stuff … and maybe not ‘just do it,’ like Nike says.”
But other professional athletes had sympathy for Woods.
Jason Taylor walked into the Miami Dolphins’ locker room and saw ESPN running a tease about Woods. He reached up and turned off the TV. “Nobody’s damned business,” Taylor said.
Minnesota Vikings kicker Ryan Longwell lives in the same Isleworth gated community as Woods outside Orlando, Fla., and said it was “crazy” in the neighborhood. He said his wife told him paparazzi were everywhere and helicopters hovered overhead.
“My wife is a blonde and wears sunglasses in Florida, so every time she comes out of the gate, they’re snapping pictures,” Longwell said. “It’s a different thing than we’ve ever faced down there. It’s certainly a new wrinkle to it.
“You just pray for his family,” Longwell said. “You pray for his wife and kids. Just pray that if what’s coming out is true that he can learn from it and move on.”
Most players at the Chevron World Challenge – hosted by Woods, who withdrew earlier this week – offered him support, even as they were curious how he crashed his car in the wee hours of Friday morning.
“He’s trying to make it as private as he can, and it’s just hard, because everybody is trying to get a piece of information on really what happened,” said Steve Stricker, who regularly exchanges text messages with Woods, but hasn’t heard from him since the accident.
“I think his image is going to take a bit of a shot,” Stricker said. “I think I’d like to see him come on TV and just pour it out a little bit and show what’s happened. I don’t know if that will ever happen.”
In its final report released Wednesday, the Florida Highway Patrol said Woods caused $3,200 in property damage, was not wearing a seat belt and was traveling 30 mph in a 25 mph zone.
The six-page report – which did not include statements from Woods, his wife or any witnesses – said Woods’ SUV rubbed up against bushes, crossed over a curb, onto a grass median and into a row of hedges before striking the fire hydrant and a tree. Damage to his Cadillac Escalade was estimated at $8,000.
Far more damaging to his image was the Us Weekly cover story.
Grubbs told the magazine she met Woods at a Las Vegas nightclub the week after the 2007 Masters – two months before Woods’ wife gave birth to their first child.
In the voice mail released by the magazine, a man says to Grubbs:
“Hey, it’s, uh, it’s Tiger. I need you to do me a huge favor. Um, can you please, uh, take your name off your phone. My wife went through my phone. And, uh, may be calling you. If you can, please take your name off that and, um, and what do you call it just have it as a number on the voice mail, just have it as your telephone number. That’s it, OK. You gotta do this for me. Huge. Quickly. All right. Bye.”
The Associated Press could not confirm Woods was the caller.
Woods’ limited response after the crash – the first statement Friday spoke of a “minor accident” – fueled speculation about a domestic dispute.
“The stories in particular that physical violence played any role in the car accident were utterly false and malicious,” Woods said. “Elin has always done more to support our family and shown more grace than anyone could possibly expect.”
Such sordid revelations come at a crucial time for the PGA Tour, which is talking to a dozen companies about tournament sponsorship deals that expire after 2010. The Tour also is to begin negotiations next year for a new TV contract.
Neal Pilson, former CBS Sports president who runs his own consulting business, did not think it would affect the next deal.
“We’re seeing this in the glare of the day, these incredible revelations,” Pilson said. “At some point, he’ll play golf and he’ll move on. At some point, this will become more embarrassing to the media than Tiger.”
TV ratings typically double when Woods is contention, and he has begun his season every year since 2006 at Torrey Pines in San Diego, which starts Jan. 28.
“Ratings will be good for golf. Aren’t you going to be watching?” Pilson said. “The ratings for Tiger are going to be higher than they might be ordinarily. I don’t think there will be any negative fallout for golf. This is a Tiger Woods story. He happens to be a golfer, but he’s a worldwide personality.”
• • •
AP Sports Writers Antonio Gonzalez in Orlando, Fla.; Jon Krawczynski in Minneapolis, Nancy Armour in Chicago, and Steve Wine in Miami contributed to this report.