Tiger Woods' image as one of the most clean-cut figures in sport is in tatters after he confessed yesterday to "transgressions" which "have let my family down". The world No 1 was found guilty of careless driving and fined after his car hit a fire hydrant and tree outside his home in Orlando, Florida last week.
The Florida Highway Patrol said "there are no claims of domestic violence by any individual". But speculation has been rife as to the reasons why Woods was driving in the early hours of the morning. Reports have claimed that it might have been caused by a row with his wife, Elin Nordegren, over an alleged marital affair. "I have let my family down and I regret those transgressions with all of my heart," said Woods.
"I have not been true to my values and the behaviour my family deserves. I am not without faults and I am far short of perfect. I am dealing with my behaviour and personal failings behind closed doors with my family. Those feelings should be shared by us alone. "Although I am a well-known person and have made my career as a professional athlete, I have been dismayed to realise the full extent of what tabloid scrutiny really means.
"For the last week, my family and I have been hounded to expose intimate details of our personal lives. The stories in particular that physical violence played any role in the car accident were utterly false and malicious. "Elin has always done more to support our family and shown more grace than anyone could possibly expect. But no matter how intense curiosity about public figures can be, there is an important and deep principle at stake which is the right to some simple, human measure of privacy.
"I realise there are some who don't share my view on that. But for me, the virtue of privacy is one that must be protected in matters that are intimate and within one's own family. "Personal sins should not require press releases and problems within a family shouldn't have to mean public confessions. "Whatever regrets I have about letting my family down have been shared with and felt by us alone. I have given this a lot of reflection and thought and I believe that there is a point at which I must stick to that principle, even though it's difficult.
"I will strive to be a better person and the husband and father that my family deserves. For all of those who have supported me over the years, I offer my profound apology." Woods found support last night from Steve Stricker, who went undefeated with the world No 1 as his partner at the Presidents Cup. "I just feel bad for the guy," said Stricker. "He's getting hammered in the media." Woods pulled out of his own Chevron World Challenge Tournament in California and is unlikely to be seen on the fairways until late January at the San Diego Invitational at Torrey Pines.
Greg McLaughlin, the president of the Tiger Woods Foundation and tournament director, said sponsors Chevron "respect and support his decision" to withdraw from this week's tournament. * AP