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Tiger Woods says, 'I am so sorry' in public apology

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'I had affairs, I cheated'
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Tiger Woods "apologized and made his position clear," Nike says
  • The golfer said he has been in therapy for "issues," which he did not explain
  • He says wife never hit him as media reported in connection with November car crash
  • Woods, 34, has taken an indefinite break from his professional golfing career

Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida (CNN) -- In a tightly controlled televised statement, golfer Tiger Woods gave an apology Friday for his "irresponsible and selfish" behavior, which he said included infidelity.

"I know I have bitterly disappointed all of you," said the golfer, dressed in a blue shirt and a blazer. "For all that I have done, I am so sorry. ...

"I had affairs, I cheated. What I did was not acceptable, and I am the only person to blame."

Read the text and watch the full apology

The nearly 14-minute statement was his first public appearance since his November car crash outside his home near Orlando, Florida -- the beginning of what would become a torrent of bad news for the professional golfer, who is taking an indefinite break from his career.

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"I owe it to my family to become a better person, I owe it to those close to me to become a better man. ... I have a lot of work to do, and I intend to dedicate myself to doing it," he said.

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"I ask you to find room in your heart to one day believe in me again."

Woods' appearance, at the TPC Sawgrass clubhouse in Ponte Vedra Beach about 11 a.m. ET, was carefully managed, with about 40 hand-picked people as an audience.

iReport: Share your thoughts about Woods' apology

Although some members of the media were invited to listen to Woods' remarks, they were not allowed to ask questions. The large majority of reporters and media were housed at least half a mile away, where they watched the event on television.

Woods' mother attended, although his wife, Elin Nordegren, did not.

Woods spoke slowly and carefully as he stood at a lectern, which held a few pieces of paper. While his eyes appeared red, he showed control throughout the statement. He raised his voice at various points, including when he told the media to leave his family alone.

After he finished speaking, he embraced his mother and a few others in the audience.

The golfer said he was in in-patient therapy for 45 days from the end of December to early February for "issues," which he did not explain. "It's hard to admit that I need help, but I do. I have a long way to go," he said, adding that he is taking the first steps in the right direction. He said he will leave Saturday for additional treatment, but did not elaborate.

Buddhism is part of his path to recovery, he said, explaining that he lost track of the faith that his mother taught him at a young age.

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Responding to rumors, Woods said that his wife never hit him, as some media reported in connection with the car crash, and that there has "never been an episode of domestic violence" in his relationship with his wife.

"Elin deserves praise, not blame," he said, and she has shown "enormous grace and poise" throughout the ordeal. Woods said the issue of whether he and his wife will remain together is for them to decide, emphasizing the privacy that he became known for before November.

"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," he said. "We have a lot to discuss. However, what we say to each other will remain between the two of us."

Afterward, Woods' mother, Kultida Woods, spoke to reporters, saying how proud she is of him.

"Golf is just like life, when you make a mistake, you learn from your mistake and move on stronger. That's the way he is," she said.

"I am upset the way media treated him like he's a criminal. ... He didn't kill anybody, he didn't do anything illegal," she said.

"They've being carrying on from Thanksgiving until now. That's not right."

The golfer's statement came amid the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. Accenture is among the companies that have ended relationships with the 34-year-old superstar.

Accenture spokesman Fred Hawrysh said Thursday that the company did not think Woods' statement would be a distraction to the tournament, which began Wednesday in Dove Mountain, Arizona. Friday's session will begin well after Woods' remarks.

Woods has won the event three times, according to GolfWeek Magazine.

"I have tremendous confidence in the golf media covering the tournament," Hawrysh said, explaining why he thought the statement wouldn't take away from the event.

In his statement, Woods thanked Accenture and the players "for understanding why I'm making these remarks today."

He also thanked the PGA Tour and its commissioner, Timothy Finchem. The commissioner called the golf star's public apology an "effective step."

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The highly managed conditions of the statement also prompted the Golf Writers Association of America -- which was invited to have three members present and then later negotiated to have six -- to boycott the event.

The association's president, Vartan Kupelian, said the group was still covering the event, but was simply not in the room.

"As long as we're not going to have the ability to ask questions, as long as we're just going to be standing there like props, there's no point of us being in the room," he told CNN.

Former sportscaster Pat O'Brien criticized the way Woods seemed to be controlling the news conference.

"He might as well have done this on YouTube," O'Brien said Thursday on CNN's "Larry King Live." "But I do think that he's got to subject himself to some sort of question-and-answer at some point."

Woods' agent, Mark Steinberg, said the golfer feels that many of the issues he is dealing with are private, but that he still owes his fans an explanation.

"While Tiger feels that what happened is fundamentally a matter between him and his wife, he also recognizes that he has hurt and let down a lot of other people who were close to him," Steinberg said. He also let down his fans, Steinberg said -- another point Woods touched upon in his statement.

"Parents used to point to me as a role model for their kids," Woods said Friday. "I owe all those families a special apology. I want to say to them that I am truly sorry."

Woods crashed his black Cadillac Escalade into a fire hydrant and then a tree on November 27, just a few days after the National Enquirer reported he was having an affair with a New York nightclub hostess, who denied involvement.

A day after he paid his $164 traffic ticket, Woods' seemingly perfect world began to crumble under allegations of infidelity threatening his five-year marriage to Nordegren.

The couple have two children: Charlie, 1, and Sam, 2.

Woods had earlier issued an apology for "transgressions" that had let his family down, as several women reported they had affairs with the golfer -- including one who allegedly had Woods on a voicemail recording asking her to take his name off her cell phone because "my wife went through my phone and may be calling you."

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In his Friday statement, Woods did not mention any mistress by name.

A former porn actress, who said she had a three-year intimate relationship with the golfer, watched his apology Friday from Los Angeles, California.

Veronica Siwik-Daniels -- whose film name was Joslyn James -- hugged attorney Gloria Allred and cried briefly as three dozen journalists and their cameras watched nearby. Allred, who also briefly represented another alleged Woods mistress, invited reporters to be in the room at a radio station as she and Siwik-Daniels watched Woods' televised statements live.

Allred said Woods should publicly acknowledge his relationship with Siwik-Daniels and apologize to her by name.

Although AT&T and Accenture ended their relationship with the golfer, other companies, including Nike and Pepsi's Gatorade, continue to sponsor him.

Procter & Gamble's Gillette said it would stop airing commercials featuring the golfer for a while.

Nike issued a quick statement Friday saying that the golfer "apologized and made his position clear."

 
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