Tiger Woods fought back tears on Friday as he issued a full and frank apology for cheating on his wife.
The world number one, speaking for the first time in public about his affairs, gave a lengthy statement to an invited audience of friends, family and colleagues at the US PGA Tour headquarters in Florida.
Woods, who confirmed he has been in therapy since December, said: “I want to say to each of you simply and directly, I am deeply sorry for my irresponsible and selfish behaviour.”
The 34-year-old also confirmed he has not set a timescale for his return to golf, saying: “I do plan to return to golf one day, I just don’t know when that day will be.”
Woods was injured on November 27 of last year when he crashed his car into a fire hydrant and a tree near his Florida home.
Two days later he released a statement in which he said the issue involved was “private … and I want to keep it that way”.
After missing his own tournament, the Chevron World Challenge, he released a statement amid persistent allegations over extra-marital affairs.
A statement to his website at the time read: “I have let my family down and I regret those transgressions with all of my heart.”
Amid continued allegations of affairs, Woods saw several high-profile sponsors announce they were ending their links with him.
A further statement in which admitted his “infidelity” followed but this month speculation of his return to golf heightened ahead of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona.
On Tuesday it was announced Woods would make a statement today but the timing – during a tournament backed by one of his former sponsors – was criticised by several leading figures in the game.
Woods said he and his wife were attempting to work through their problems and made an appeal for privacy.
He continued: “I know people want to find out how I could be so selfish and so foolish.
“People want to know how I could have done these things to my wife, Elin, and to my children.
“And, while I have always tried to be a private person, there are some things I want to say. Elin and I have started the process of discussing the damage caused by my behaviour. We have a lot to discuss and what we say to each other will remain between the two of us.”
Woods also vehemently denied allegations his car crash was caused after Elin attempted to attack him with a golf club following revelations about his affairs.
He continued: “I have a lot to atone for but there’s one issue I really want to discuss. Some people have speculated that Elin somehow hurt or attacked me on Thanksgiving night.
“It angers me that people would fabricate a story like that. Elin never hit me that night or any other night. There has never been an episode of domestic violence in our marriage.
“Elin has shown enormous grace and poise throughout this ordeal. Elin deserves praise not blame.”
Woods admitted he was unsure when he would return to golf. “I do plan to return to golf one day,” he said. “I just don’t know when that day will be.
“I don’t rule out that it will be this year. When I do return I need to make my behaviour more respectful to the game.”
Woods’ statements on his website when the speculation about his private life first became public were somewhat cryptic but he was explicit about his failings on Friday.
“I was unfaithful, I had affairs, I cheated,” he said. “What I did is not acceptable and I am the only person to blame. I stopped living by the core values I was taught to believe in.
“I knew my actions were wrong but I convinced myself that normal rules didn’t apply. I never thought about who I was hurting, instead I thought only about myself. I ran straight through the boundaries a married couple should live by.
“I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to. I felt that I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me. I felt I was entitled thanks to money and fame. I didn’t have to go far to find them. I was wrong and I was foolish.”
The 14-time major winner claimed therapy had helped him start to deal with his problems and vowed there would be no repeat of his infidelities.
“I’ve had a lot of time to think about what I’ve done,” he continued. “My failures have made me look at myself in a way I’ve never wanted to before. It’s now up to me to make amends. And that starts by never repeating the mistakes I’ve made.
“It’s up to me to start living a life of integrity. It’s hard to admit that I need help but I do. For 45 days from the end of December to early February I was in in-patient therapy receiving guidance for the issues I’m facing. I have a long way to go. I have taken my first steps in the right direction.”