PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Tiger Woods’ mother sat in the front row, arms folded across her black sweater, eyes fixed on her world-famous son as he apologized again for letting so many people down with his infidelity.
Kultida Woods usually is seen, not heard.
She is the Thai woman with the wide-brimmed visor, leaning on a portable seat just beyond the ropes, now only at the Masters and his Chevron World Challenge. With rare exception, she does not give interviews.
Friday was different.
After Woods and all but a few of his 40 associates left the room, Mrs. Woods stayed in her seat.
“I would like to talk,” she said as three wire service reporters approached.
It was her voice that was heard on the 911 tape the night of the Nov. 27 car accident that led to revelations of Woods’ rampant affairs. “What happened?” she could be heard in the background as Woods was found on the street next to his SUV.
Mrs. Woods did not want to discuss details – “this thing is a family matter,” she said – only to reveal she was upset. Mostly, however, she is angry at media outlets that stalked her in airports and the relentless coverage of Woods’ downfall.
“Some of media, especially tabloid, hurt my son bad,” said Mrs. Woods, who moved to America some 40 years ago and speaks haltingly. “Sometimes think there double standard. He didn’t do anything illegal. He didn’t kill anybody. But he try to improve himself. He try to go to therapy and help. He change that and making better.
“When he go do all this thing, he will come out stronger and better person.”
Mrs. Woods was flanked on both sides by women – Amy Reynolds, formerly of Nike who now works at Tiger Woods Design, and Kathy Battaglia, the administrative assistant for the ETW Corp.
Woods walked directly to his mother when he finished his 13-minute statement. After they embraced, she placed her hands on his shoulders to speak to him. She said she whispered in his ear, “I’m so proud of you. Never think you stand alone. Mom will always be there for you, and I love you.”
Along with Woods’ apology – to his family, friends, business partners, foundation, parents of kids who saw him as a role model – his mother was pleased to hear him say he would return to his Buddhist faith.
“Since he was young, always Buddhism,” Mrs. Woods said. “Buddhist teach go inside deep to soul and correct bad thing to be a good thing. He got back to practice Buddhism again, that make him much better person.”
She said his recovery from his extramarital affairs, and his eventual return to golf, would be the toughest road Woods ever faced.
“And he admit that,” she said. “I told him, ‘Good thing you learn from this.’ I never condemn my son. That’s the way you go through life. When make a mistake, admit. We not God. He never claimed he was God. If somebody condemn him, look at themselves first.
“You don’t know how difficult it is to be Tiger,” she said. “Not many people want to be. Not easy to be him. Just like somebody go to work 8 to 5 and go home to have a life with family. Tiger can’t do that.”
She then became animated discussing how long he has been in the news.
“If not Tiger, don’t think come this far,” she said of the media coverage. “February, every day, not have helicopters all over the place.”
Woods has become the public face of golf, and richly rewarded. He is believed to be the first athlete to earn over $1 billion in earnings and endorsements. When it was mentioned to Mrs. Woods that with fame and fortune comes public interest, she said he was only human and should be allowed to learn from his mistakes.
“I am so proud to be his mother, period,” she said.