Reuters - Wed, 17 Feb 20:30:00 2010
Tiger Woods, the superstar golfer who took an indefinite break from the game in December after admitting marital infidelity, will make a public statement on Friday to discuss his playing future.
The world number one has been in hiding since the tawdry revelations about his personal life erupted after a minor car accident in the middle of the night outside his Florida home in November.
It was a stunning fall from grace for the most marketable figure in sport and one of the world's most recognizable athletes.
Woods, a 14-times major champion who is believed to be the wealthiest sports personality on the planet, will address a small gathering of reporters in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, at 11 a.m. EST (1600 GMT) on Friday, his manager said.
"Tiger plans to discuss his past and his future and he plans to apologize for his behavior," Mark Steinberg said in an email to Reuters.
"While Tiger feels that what happened is fundamentally a matter between he and his wife, he also recognizes that he has hurt and let down a lot of other people who were close to him.
"He also let down his fans. He wants to begin the process of making amends and that's what he's going to discuss."
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, speaking to reporters at this week's WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona, said: "I'm pleased that he's going to make some comments.
"I'm not going to assume anything. We'd like him back as soon as possible but we want him back importantly when he's dealt with the issues he felt like he had to deal with to come back," Finchem said.
Woods, 34, had been advised by several of his peers, among them eight-times major winner Tom Watson, to make a public apology before reappearing on the US PGA Tour.
Watson, 60, one of the most respected figures in the game, said earlier this month his fellow American should "show some humility to the public" and to come back "not at a golf tournament but out in public first."
Woods, the greatest player of his generation and arguably of all time, became engulfed in a media frenzy after the bizarre pre-dawn car crash on November 27.
With his squeaky-clean image torn asunder by a series of allegations over his private life, he reportedly got treatment for sex addiction in Mississippi. He has since returned to his Orlando home where he and his Swedish wife, Elin, are believed to be living apart.
Woods has given no timetable for his likely return to competition.
Many pundits have predicted he will be back for the March 11-14 WGC-CA Championship in Miami, while others are banking on him delaying his comeback until the U.S. Masters in April.
Augusta National, permanent home of the Masters, would provide him with the most tightly screened media contingent on the tour and golf fans are well aware that winning majors has been the driving force in his career.
Sponsors and organizers have been counting the days before his return. The absence of Woods from events where he usually plays generally has driven down television ratings by 50 per cent.
Woods was estimated to earn about $100 million a year in endorsement deals before his adultery scandal led AT&T and Accenture to drop him as a spokesman.
But Forbes magazine, which has put his total worth at $1 billion, said his remaining sponsorship deals with Nike, Electronic Arts and Procter & Gamble's Gillette brand would allow Woods to remain the world's highest-paid athlete this year.