Tiger Woods has broken his silence.
Nearly three months after the car crash that turned his world upside down, the disgraced golfer spoke to friends, family, business associates and a (very) small pool of reporters at a carefully controlled press address this morning.
The take-home message: He's "deeply sorry," working on his marriage—despite the notable absence of wife Elin Nordegren at his address—and, as of tomorrow, will begin his 46th day of in-treatment therapy.
"Many of you in this room are my friends," he said during the emotional speech. "Many in this room know me. Many of you have cheered for me, or you worked with me, or you supported me. Now, every one of you has good reason to be critical of me. I want to say to each of you simply and directly: I am deeply sorry for my irresponsibility and selfish behavior I engaged in."
AP Photo/Joe Skipper, Pool
"I know people want to find out how I can be so selfish and so foolish," he said. "People want to know how I could have done these things to my wife Elin and my children…My real apology to her will not come in the form of words. It will come in my behavior over time. We have a lot to discuss. However, what we say to each other will be between the two of us."
Woods went on to acknowledge that he has let down not only his fans, but his friends and business associates. "My behavior has been a personal disappointment," he said.
"I have made you question who I am and how I could have done the things I did. I'm embarrassed that I have put you in this position. For all that I have done, I am so sorry. I have a lot to atone for."
But first, he had one thing in particular to clarify.
"There's one issue I really want to discuss. Some people have speculated that Elin somehow hurt or attacked me on Thanksgiving night. It angers me that people would fabricate a story like that. Elin has never hit me that night or any night. Elin has shown enormous grace and poise throughout this ordeal. Elin deserves praise, not blame. The issue involved here was my repeated irresponsible behavior. I was unfaithful, I had affairs, I cheated.
"What I did was not acceptable and I am the only person to blame. I stopped living by the core values I was taught to believe in. I convinced myself that normal rules didn't apply. I thought only about myself…I ran straight through the boundaries that a married couple should live by. I felt I was entitled. Thanks to money and fame, I didn't have to go far to find them."
Woods said that he was turning to both Buddhism and his family to get him through the situation.
"I brought this shame on myself. I hurt my wife, my kids, my mother, my wife's family, my friends, my foundation and kids all around the world who admired me. I've had a lot of time to think about what I've done. My failures have made me look at myself in a way I've never wanted to before. Now it's time for me to make amends. It's up to me to start living a life of integrity."
And while he does, he implored the press to give his family the privacy they deserve, despite their rampant and understandable curiosity.
"I understand people want to know whether Elin and I remain together. Please know that as far as I'm concerned, every one of these questions and answers is a matter for her and me.
"I still believe it is right to shield my family from the public spotlight. They didn't do these things; I did. For the sake of my family, please leave my wife and kids alone. I recognize I have brought this on myself, and I know above all I am the one who needs to change. I owe it to my family to become a better person. I owe it to those close to me to become a better man. That's where my focus will be."
As for a possible return to golf, Woods says he has not ruled out a comeback this year, though he has a lot of work to do before such a move could become a reality.
"When I return, I need to make my behavior more respectful of the game," he said, before wrapping up his comments.
"There are many people in this room and many people at home who believed in me. Today, I ask for your help. I ask you to find room in your heart to one day believe in me again. Thank you."
At that, the teary golfer stepped away from the podium and held a long embrace with his mother and other friends before leaving the room.
(Originally published Feb. 19, 2010, at 8:35 a.m. PT)
Elin was MIA for Tiger's statement. See what she's been up lately in our Elin Nordegren: Life After Scandal gallery.