The Tiger Woods Apology: 'I Have a Lot to Atone For'

The contrite superstar athlete finally takes responsibility for his shocking infidelities

After months of silence since the November car crash that led to revelations of Tiger Woods' many extramarital affairs, the golf superstar finally made a public apology for his indiscretions. In a press room in Ponte Verde Beach, Fla., a somber Woods, 34, spoke to selected associates and reporters about his past mistakes and future plans. Woods did not take any questions.

Woods' wife, Elin Nordegren, 30 (with whom he has two children, Sam, 2, and Charlie, 1), wasn't present, but his mother, Kultida Woods, and PGA tour commissioner Tom Finchem were. Initial reports estimated Woods would speak for five minutes, but the statement clocked in closer to 15.

Stepping up to the podium while a flurry of cameras snapped, Woods began, "Many of you in the room are my have cheered for me, or you worked with me, or you supported me. Now, every one of you has reason to be critical of me. I want to say to each of you simply, and directly: I am deeply sorry for  irresponsible and selfish behavior I engaged in." 

Choking up, Woods continued, "A lot of 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 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 behavior. As Elin pointed out to me, my real apology to her will not come in the form of words, it will come from my behavior over time." 

Woods quickly added, "However, what we say to each other will remain between the two of us." 

He directed specific apologies to fans, those he employs, and those involved in his charitable foundation -- and insisted that the mission of his learning centers "remains unchanged and will continue to grow." 

The disgraced sports hero sharpened his tone when accusing the press of inventing details about Nordegren's role in the Thanksgiving incident. "It angers me that people would fabricate a story....Elin never hit me that night or any other night. There has never been an episode of domestic violence in our marriage, ever. Elin has shown enormous grace and poise throughout this ordeal." The golfer shook his head and added, "Elin deserves praise, not blame." 

The statement was more candid than many expected. "I was unfaithful, I had affairs, I cheated," Woods said. "What I did is not acceptable and I am the only person to blame....I knew my actions were wrong, but I convinced myself normal rules didn't apply. I never thought about who I was hurting; instead, I thought only about myself. I felt that I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me. I felt I was entitled. 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. I brought this shame on myself." 

"I have hurt my wife, my kids, my mother, my wife's family, my friends, my foundation, and kids all around the world who admired me." Woods' mother was seen on camera with arms crossed, visibly upset, as she listened from the front row. 

The athlete vowed he would make amends by "never repeating the mistakes I have made" and confirmed that for the last 45 days, from late to December to mid-February, he was in "inpatient therapy receiving guidance for the issues I'm facing. I have a long way to go, but I'm taking the first steps in the right direction." Woods said he would be leaving tomorrow for more treatment.

As far as any criticism about not taking questions, the golfer was adamant that, "these are issues between a husband and a wife."

About his loved ones, Woods put his hand on his heart and said, "They did not do this. I did. I have always tried to maintain a private space for my wife and children....However, my behavior doesn't make it right for the media to follow around my 2-and-a-half-year-old daughter to school and report the school's location. They staked out my wife and pursued my mom. Whatever my wrongdoings, for the sake of my family, please leave my wife and kids alone." 

In a segue about faith, Woods referenced his Buddhist upbringing, noting that the religion "teaches a craving for things outside ourselves causes an unhappy and pointless search for security. It teaches to stop following every impulse and learn restraint. Obviously, I lost track of what I was taught. " 

On when his career would resume, Woods stated, "I do plan to return to golf one day, 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 behavior more respectful of the game."

In closing, the fallen sports icon thanked "the players on the field," Finchem, his former sponsors Accenture, and well-wishers, asking them to "find room in your heart to one day believe in me again. Thank you." Woods then walked from the podium to his mother, with whom he shared a long hug.

The apology was long, scripted, and seemingly covered all the bases in terms of apologizing to any and all parties that Woods feels he's wronged. But can this famous philanderer rehabilitate himself (and regain lost endorsement income) with just a few  months underground and a 15-minute mea culpa? And can a man reportedly addicted to sex suddenly stop cheating, forever? If only Elin Nordegren would take the mic and let us know what she really thinks!

POLL: Should Elin Attend Tiger's Press Conference?
- PHOTOS: Cheating Hearts: What Makes Famous Men Stray?
- Tiger Woods in Rehab: What Goes on in There, Anyway?

Do you think Tiger Woods' apology was sincere? Have you forgiven him? Chime in below!

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