- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 12, 2009

Tiger Woods on Friday announced he was taking an “indefinite break” from golf, capping a dramatic and tumultuous two weeks since a bizarre car accident near his central Florida home sparked a string of revelations about the superstar athlete’s troubled personal life.

“After much soul searching, I have decided to take an indefinite break from professional golf. I need to focus my attention on being a better husband, father and person,” Mr. Woods said in a four-paragraph statement posted on his Web site.

The world’s top golfer for the first time used the word “infidelity” in connection with the ongoing ordeal that has seen almost daily allegations from women saying they had engaged in extramarital affairs with Mr. Woods.

“I am deeply aware of the disappointment and hurt that my infidelity has caused to so many people, most of all my wife and children. I want to say again to everyone that I am profoundly sorry and that I ask forgiveness,” he said. “It may not be possible to repair the damage I’ve done, but I want to do my best to try.”

The statement goes on to ask for understanding and twice asks for privacy as Mr. Woods and his family seek “personal healing.”

The PGA issued a statement late Friday supporting Mr. Woods.

“We fully support Tiger’s decision to step away from competitive golf to focus on his family. His priorities are where they need to be, and we will continue to respect and honor his family’s request for privacy,” the organization said.

Mr. Woods on Nov. 27 crashed his black Cadillac Escalade into a tree and fire hydrant in the middle of the night. Some speculated he was fleeing his golf-club wielding wife, model Elin Nordegren, who was attending him when paramedics arrived.

The accident fueled speculation in tabloids and gossip Web sites about the events leading up to it, including reports of a possible domestic dispute between the couple.

The crash occurred two days after the National Enquirer published a story saying that Mr. Woods had been seeing a New York nightclub hostess and that they recently were together in Melbourne, where Mr. Woods competed in the Australian Masters tournament.

Since then, 10 other women have been linked to Mr. Woods, including one woman who spoke about her relationship with the golfer Friday morning on NBC’s “Today” show.

On Dec. 2, Mr. Woods issued a vaguely worded apology to the mounting charges, referring simply to his “transgressions” and “personal failings.” That statement followed a report in US Weekly magazine of a cocktail waitress who claimed to have had a 31-month affair with Mr. Woods and produced a voice message he had left with her.

Mr. Woods withdrew on Nov. 30 from his own golf tournament, the Chevron World Challenge, citing injuries from the car crash. Soon after, speculation began that he could take a longer, self-imposed hiatus from the sport he has dominated.

Earlier this week Gatorade announced it was dropping a Tiger Woods sports drink. Company officials said the decision was made before the scandal, but it remains to be seen whether sponsors will abandon Mr. Woods - whose net worth is thought to be more than a half-billion dollars.

“I think any PR pro worth his salt would advise Tiger to lie low for a few months at least,” Todd Wasserman, editor of Brandweek magazine in New York, told The Washington Times. “He obviously handled the situation very poorly so far.”

Celebrity publicist and branding expert Holly Gleason, however, says it would be big mistake to believe it will go away that easily, particularly because women keep coming out of the woodwork, some hiring attorneys to negotiate a settlement or a lucrative public deal.

“The days of ‘no comment’ are over. That is now a blank check for the blogosphere to blow up any way they see fit,” Ms. Gleason said.

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