Golf's fallen idol, Tiger Woods, faces the public

Fri Feb 19, 2010 2:49pm EST
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By Tim Gaynor

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Florida (Reuters) - A total hush fell over the darkened room at the PGA club house and all eyes turned to a break in the heavy blue drapes.

A lone helicopter buzzed loudly overhead as Tiger Woods stalked into the room, his eyes searching for the microphone like a troubled swimmer looking for a lifeline.

The atmosphere was intimate, a tightly-controlled setting for the golfer's first public appearance in months, but cameras beamed the event out to a live television audience watching for every word.

Woods launched into a solemn, faltering and long apology as he sought to save his marriage and push the reset button on a billion-dollar career that has been on hold since his stunning fall from grace last year.

Engulfed in a frenzy of media speculation over his private life after a bizarre car accident in the middle of the night in November, Woods admitted in December to marital infidelity and announced he was taking an indefinite break from professional golf. But he had not yet appeared in public to apologize.

"I have let you down," he said, speaking nervously, to the room filled with 40 or so people at the headquarters of the U.S. PGA Tour in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. The group included agents, PGA executives and family, but not his wife, Elin, with whom he has two children.

"I have let you down personally," he said, looking over to his mother, Kultida, a slight figure dressed in black and perched on a wooden chair in the front row.

Woods' management invited only a small group of journalists to the golfer's appearance -- they were seated at the back of the room. Embroidered curtains over the tall windows shielded the room from more media outside.   Continued...

<p>Tiger Woods pauses while delivering a statement to friends and family in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, February 19, 2010. REUTERS/Lori Moffett/Pool</p>