There was no option for a beleaguered Tiger Woods other than to shut the door on his public life and try to salvage his seriously damaged private life after the world No 1's admission, albeit belatedly, of recurring infidelity. Wherever the wounded Tiger had chosen to make his reappearance after the embarrassing series of domestic disclosures over the past fortnight, the media circus which is part and parcel of every tournament he plays in would have spiralled out of control. It will take a long time for the dust to settle. Indeed, the story may never die but its impact will be diluted during the "indefinite" break the sporting superstar takes from the game he had previously served with such distinction. He finds himself at a career crossroads for the second time in barely a year. When he took an enforced eight-month lay-off to recover from knee surgery after the bravest of victories in a five-day 2008 US Open, serious misgivings were raised about his ability to reclaim his position as the unrivalled leader of his profession. Those doubts proved misplaced as he captured seven more titles in the nine months since making his comeback. Similar questions will be asked on this occasion about his ability to keep ruling the roost. This time the answers may be different. When Tiger was laid up in hospital last year his heart was still very much in the game. When he was hospitalised two weeks ago following the unsavoury sequence of events inside and outside his Florida home, he might well have had that heart knocked right out of him. Only time will tell if that is the case. The burning ambition for Woods since he exploded into the sporting world as a precocious amateur 13 years ago has been to break the immortal Jack Nicklaus's record haul of 18 major championship wins. He got to 14 when he hobbled around one of his favourite courses - Torrey Pines in California - to overcome a stubborn Rocco Mediate in an 18-hole play-off for that US Open and expectations were high this year that he would take one of the big four titles, such was the tournament-winning power of his return from injury. He failed, however, on all counts, most painfully in losing the PGA Championship in a head-to-head battle with the unheralded Korean YE Yang. That failure is a rare black mark on his resume. Other ambitious players of Yang's calibre are now believing that the seemingly invincible Tiger can be tamed coming down the home stretch of a main event. It is dangerously premature to say that the aura of Woods has been lost but what is guaranteed is that he is not as intimidating nowadays to lesser mortals as he used to be. Woods, 33, delivered the news of his temporary retirement from the safety of his personal website. His statement said: "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." He said he was "profoundly sorry" for his infidelity to Elin, his wife for the past five years, and added: "It may not be possible to repair the damage I've done, but I want to do my best to try. What's most important now is that my family has the time, privacy, and safe haven we will need for personal healing." The US PGA Tour supported Woods in his decision even though they can expect television viewing figures at their tournaments to plummet while Woods is in exile. "We look forward to Tiger's return when he determines the time is right for him," said Tour commissioner Tim Finchem.
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