(CNN) -- Only moments after Tiger Woods began reading his apology Friday, writers, pundits and tweeters largely split into two camps: those who felt that his words were a heartfelt effort to acknowledge wrongs and set them right, and those who didn't believe a word of it.
David Hinckley, in the New York Daily News, was unconvinced: "Prisoners of war reading prepared denunciations of Western imperialism look more comfortable than Tiger Woods did Friday, apologizing for his 'selfish and irresponsible' behavior. Never relaxed and easygoing in front of a TV camera in the best of times, Woods was a man saying the right things out loud while everything about his demeanor was silently screaming, 'I don't want to be here.' His eyes occasionally moving around the room as he worked to enunciate his scripted remarks clearly, Woods looked like a man who had caught his leg in a bear trap."
By contrast, SI.com's Michael Rosenberg took Tiger at his word: "This was a real person with real flaws and real failures that he really acknowledged. Tiger has always preferred to sell an image instead of being himself; this was obvious even before he crashed his car last Thanksgiving. Ironically, at the moment when Tiger's image is most at risk, he finally showed us who he is. ... A lot of us have trouble apologizing to our spouse or our boss when we make a mistake. Think about what it must be like to apologize to the world. I don't know what else people can ask of the guy."
At beliefnet.com, Rabbi Schmuley Boteach was convinced that the apology was heartfelt: "Tiger Woods' statement was a model of repentance and contrition. He admitted he had a problem. He said that words alone would not solve it, that he requires, and is receiving counseling. He admitted that celebrity and money had given him a sense of entitlement and had corrupted him. He said he had behaved selfishly and irresponsibly. He accepted that being a public figure meant private responsibility and that he had to model good behavior for the youth. And he looked the entire time like he meant it. It was that rarest of things, a sincere and unconditional statement of contrition and responsibility from a public figure for cheating on his wife."
ESPN.com's Bill Simmons called the apology "a borderline train wreck" and said: "It amazes me that Tiger learned little to nothing from the past two months. The control freak whose life slipped out of control dipped right back into control-freak mode, reading a prepared speech in front of a hand-selected audience of people, taking no questions, talking in clichés and only occasionally seeming human. Everything about it seemed staged. Everything. When the main camera broke down at the nine-minute mark and Tiger had to be shown from the side, I half-expected to see that he was plugged in to the wall."
CNN legal analyst Lisa Bloom had a different take, saying that while Tiger Woods hit a "home run" in acknowledging that he had a mistaken view of what his fame entitled him to, the most significant thing about the apology was the absence of his wife, Elin: "Elin Woods joins the more recent and growing list -- Elizabeth Edwards, Jenny Sanford -- who stand out for not standing by their husbands' public confessionals. Famous wives are public figures themselves, however reluctantly, and serve as role models for girls and women who watch their moves carefully. Elin's absence says this: I am not a doormat. Nor should you be. She may forgive, or not; she may stay, or not. That's her private business. But she refused to be part of the public spectacle... And that is as it should be."
Mary McNamara, at the Los Angeles Times, wondered why Woods bothered to make the statement, saying it just "reignited" the news cycle: "... it would have been nice if Woods had seemed more genuine -- the only real emotion he seemed to be experiencing was anger at the media, and a general air of irritated resignation at having to make this statement in the first place. Which, of course, he did not. The world would have gone on turning without a prepared statement from Tiger Woods. But unless Woods is planning to retire, to embrace a truly private life, then going out there with a 'I'm saying this and then I'm not saying anything more' is just ridiculous and disingenuous."
Taking more of the middle ground, Washington Post media columnist Howard Kurtz, who hosts "Reliable Sources" on CNN, said on the Post's site: "It's not too much to say that this is a man in pain -- self-inflicted, to be sure, but pain nonetheless. But putting the tawdriness of the multiple mistresses behind him will probably take more than one carefully controlled television appearance."
Even before the apology, there was a bounty of opinion arguing that it wasn't a good idea. The pseudonymous "Stanley Bing" at Fortune.com begged Tiger not to apologize in this blog post:
"This nation is an apology factory. People are held up to impossible standards, or even possible ones, and fail to live up to them, as people will, and then the apology machine goes into action and will not shut down again until it runs its course, or is denied of fuel. You are simply giving it more fuel. ... I hope I'm not too late. You're scheduled to apologize again this morning. Perhaps you won't get this advice until it's too late. If so, you know what? It's still good. You can't unapologize now. But let that be it, forever. Answer no more questions. Say you're sorry, if necessary, to the one person to whom you genuinely owe an apology. No, it's not Barbara Walters."
And Selena Roberts, at SI.com, faulted Woods for stealing the spotlight from U.S. athletes at the Winter Olympics who were getting well-earned recognition:
"The Americans have earned their enthusiasm, and all the coverage and headlines that go with it. Now Tiger wants to eclipse their sunshine by crashing their bash with his own pity party. ... The days of seeing the Americans through the prism of Olympians Behaving Badly have seemed a scene of the past at these Games. Then Tiger, the nation's gold-medal bad boy, surfaces, demanding equal time. Once again, Tiger couldn't help himself."
CNN contributor Roland Martin said he wasn't looking for an apology: "I'm sick of these sanctimonious folks who are blabbering about Woods needing to be grilled about his private behavior. Look, Tiger Woods didn't cheat on me. He's not my daddy, brother, cousin, church member, neighbor or friend. He didn't let me down or crush my view of him. He is not and never was my role model."