Woods Sorry for behavior unsure of return

By Doug FergusonFebruary 19, 2010, 9:23 pm
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Somber, composed – and vulnerable – Tiger Woods faced the world and said the words out loud.

“I cheated.”

“I am deeply sorry.”

“I understand people have questions.”

What Woods did not do Friday was answer the two biggest questions: What really happened? When will he play golf again?

Missing his smile and aura of invincibility, Woods made another apology for cheating on his wife – this time a televised one – without revealing the scope of his infidelity or his future on the PGA Tour.

Woods spoke in a hushed room at the TPC Sawgrass clubhouse filled with his closest associates. He stumbled a few times as he read a 13 1/2 -minute statement in which he acknowledged he’s been in therapy following string of affairs.

“I have made you question who I am and how I could have done the things I did,” Woods said.

Woods’ wife, Elin, did not attend his first public appearance since he crashed his car into a tree outside their home three months ago, bringing out allegations of several extramarital relationships.

“I was unfaithful. I had affairs. I cheated,” Woods said. “What I did was not acceptable.”

Woods alternately looked into the camera and at the 40 people in the room, raising his voice only to deny that his wife ever hit him and to demand that the paparazzi leave his family alone. Beyond that, there were stretches when Woods – with his formidable business empire – could have been reading from a corporate report.

He entered the room alone. When he finished, he stopped to hug his mother Kultida, who said she whispered in his ear, “I’m so proud of you. Never think you stand alone. Mom will always be there for you, and I love you.”

Regaining trust and support from everyone else might not be as easy.

Woods already has lost two corporate endorsements – Accenture and AT&T – and he has gone from being perhaps the most famous athlete in the world to a punch line in night clubs and on talk shows.

“It’s now up to me to make amends, and that starts by never repeating the mistakes I’ve made,” Woods said. “It’s up to me to start living a life of integrity.”

Woods left therapy on Feb. 11 and has been spending time with his two children and his mother – but not his wife – in Orlando, Florida, according to a person with knowledge of Woods’ schedule. The person, not authorized to release such information, spoke on condition of anonymity.

Woods did not say how much longer he would be in therapy, only that “I have a long way to go.”

Pool photos were released Thursday of Woods hitting golf balls on the practice range.

“I do plan to return to golf one day,” Woods said. “I just don’t know when that day will be. I don’t rule out that it will be this year. When I do return, I need to make my behavior more respectful of the game.”

Just as unpredictable is the future of his marriage. Woods said he and his wife have started discussing the damage he has done. “What we say to each other will remain between the two of us,” he said.

Elin’s father, Thomas Nordegren, saw Woods’ confession but wouldn’t comment and her mother, Barbro Holmberg, declined to say whether she watched at all.

After embracing his mother, Woods hugged the two women who sat on either side of her – Amy Reynolds, formerly of Nike who now works for Tiger Woods Design, and Kathy Battaglia, who is Woods’ administrative assistant at ETW Corp.

He made his way down the front row and greeted others – his chief financial officer, Web site administrator, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem and Notah Begay, who played with Woods at Stanford University.

Begay said Woods had a long, tough recovery ahead of him – not only at home, but before thousands of fans behind the ropes.

“It’s a little bit harder than making a swing change,” Begay said.

Woods remained composed throughout the statement, pausing briefly before the first of several apologies. At times, however, he looked into the camera almost on cue.

Others in the audience were Bryon Bell, his friend from junior high who now is president of his design company, and Mark Steinberg, Woods’ agent at IMG, along with 14 PGA Tour executives.

“He’s an American hero. And he’s had his issues,” Finchem said. “My personal reaction was that his comments were heartfelt. He clearly recognizes that there has been serious impact to a wide range of individuals and organizations.”

Some of the eight players at the Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona watched the coverage before the third round.

“From a guy that’s done a lot of tough things in golf over the years, it was probably one of the most difficult things he’s ever had to do,” British Open champion Stewart Cink said. “And it was something probably that’s going to help him along the way of healing.”

Only a few journalists were allowed to watch Woods live, but all the U.S. networks broke into their schedules to show it – a comment on Woods’ importance in popular culture. Television ratings double when he is in contention, which has happened a lot on his way to winning 71 times on the PGA Tour and 14 majors, four short of the record held by Jack Nicklaus.

Nicklaus watched the announcement, but a spokesman said he would have no comment.

Most of the associates left the room when Woods finished speaking. Among those who stayed were Mrs. Woods, who rarely gives interview but in this case said, “I would like to talk.”

She said her son has a “good heart and good soul” but made a mistake. Mrs. Woods, raised in Thailand, also claims the media showed a “double standard” by keeping the sex scandal in the news for so long.

“Some of media, especially tabloid, hurt my son bad,” Mrs. Woods said. “He didn’t do anything illegal. He didn’t kill anybody. But he try to improve himself. He try to go to therapy and help. He change that and making better. When he go do all this thing, he will come out stronger and a better person.”

As his Thai-born mother sat with arms folded across her chest, Woods said part of his rehab would include a return to Buddhism. Woods said his mother raised him as a Buddhist, and he practiced his faith “until I drifted away from it in recent years.”

The companies that have stuck most closely by Woods, Nike and games company Electronic Arts, reiterated their support. Said EA Sports president Peter Moore: “It was good to see Tiger address the public today, and we’re supportive of his focus toward family and rebuilding his life.”

AP Sports Writer Bob Baum in Marana, Ariz., Associated Press writers Antonio Gonzalez in Ponte Vedra Beach, John Rogers in Los Angeles, and AP Retail Writers Ashley Heher in Chicago and Sarah Skidmore in Portland, Ore., contributed to this report.
Getty Images

Match Play Final Four set to bring the excitement

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 11:55 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Sunday’s Final Four at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play will include a pair of Georgia Bulldogs, a two-and-done phenom from Alabama and a Swede from Stockholm via Stillwater, that would be Oklahoma.

Just like that other tournament, right?

Actually, for all the volatility in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, it’s not even in the same league as this year’s Match Play, where just a single player who began the week seeded inside the top 10 is still playing.

But what the event may lack in star power it’s certainly made up for with stellar performances, starting with Justin Thomas who is the PGA Tour’s most avid Alabama fan and the tournament’s second-seeded player.

After not losing a match in three days of pool play, Thomas again cruised through his morning Round-of-16 bout with Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5; but found himself in an unfamiliar position early in his quarterfinal match against Kyle Stanley.

Having not trailed during any point in his matches this week, Thomas bogeyed the second hole to fall behind.

“I was hoping to never trail this whole week. I thought that was unbelievable that [2017 champion Dustin Johnson] did it last year,” Thomas said. “I'm going out there this afternoon, and I was like, ‘Man, I have got a chance of doing this, too.’ Then I missed a 3-footer on 2 and shot that out the window.”

The world’s second-ranked player was nearly perfect the rest of the way, regaining the lead with three birdies in four holes starting at No. 5 and closing Stanley out with a bogey-free finish.

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

It’s all part of an impressive turnaround for Thomas, who had been slowed in recent weeks by dental surgery followed by a bout with the flu, which nearly prompted him to miss the Match Play.

“I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” said Thomas, who can unseat Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking if he advances to the championship match. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”

His improved health has dovetailed with his increasingly better play at Austin Country Club and he’s now two matches away from winning his first World Golf Championship.

Like the NCAA tournament, however, being one of the last four standing only means more work, and Thomas will have plenty to keep him busy when he sets out early Sunday in a semifinal match against Bubba Watson.

Although Watson hasn’t been as dominant as Thomas, his ability to overpower any course, any time, has been evident this week following victories over Brian Harman, 2 and 1, and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, 5 and 3, on his way to the Final Four.

“When you're hitting an 8-iron and another guy is hitting a 7- or another guy is hitting a 6-iron, obviously that's going to change everything,” said Watson, who played his college golf at Georgia. “It's like LeBron James, when he jumps, he jumps higher than I do, so it's an advantage. When you're hitting the driver good and those guys you're naming, they're known for hitting the driver pretty well, just like Thomas is doing right now, he's been hammering it. Anytime that you're hitting the driver somewhat straight, it's an advantage.”

But if Bubba is a familiar foe for Thomas, he may want to do a quick Google search to fill in the blanks on one of his potential final opponents.

While Alex Noren is still a relatively unknown player to many American fans (and that’s certain to change in September at the Ryder Cup), it’s only because they haven’t been paying attention. The Swede, who attended Oklahoma State, has been dominant this week, sweeping the group stage followed by a 5-and-3 victory over Patrick Reed in the Sweet 16 and a 4-and-2 triumph over Cameron Smith in the quarterfinals.

“I've always liked match play because the outcome is quite direct,” said Noren, who will face Kevin Kisner in the semifinals. “In match play, you've just got to be really focused all the time and anything can happen. And then you have to play good each round. You can't just give up a round and then think you've got three more.”

But if a JT vs. Noren final would be the perfect Ryder Cup primer, the dream match up for Thomas in the championship tilt might be Kisner.

Kisner lost a friendly wager to Thomas earlier this year at the Sony Open when Alabama defeated Georgia in the NCAA National Championship football game and he had to wear an Alabama jersey while he played the 17th hole on Thursday.

Kisner would certainly appreciate the chance at a mulligan. And the way the duo have been rolling in birdie putts this week, it has the potential to be just as entertaining as that other tournament.

Getty Images

Up one, Stricker hunting second Champions title

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 11:48 pm

BILOXI, Miss. - Steve Stricker moved into position for his second straight PGA Tour Champions victory, shooting a 3-under 69 on Saturday to take a one-stroke lead in the Rapiscan Systems Classic.

Stricker won the Cologuard Classic three weeks ago in Tucson, Arizona, for his first victory on the 50-and-over tour. He tied for 12th the following week in the PGA Tour's Valspar Championship.

Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

Stricker had a 7-under 137 total at Fallen Oak, the Tom Fazio-designed layout with big, speedy greens.

The 51-year-old Wisconsin player bogeyed Nos. 2-3, rebounded with birdies on Nos. 6-7, birdied the par-4 12th and eagled the par-5 13th. He has six top-three finishes in eight career senior starts.

First-round leader Joe Durant followed his opening 66 with a 72 to drop into a tie for second with Jeff Sluman (67).

Getty Images

Thomas can take world No. 1 with win over Watson

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 11:29 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – On March 7, Justin Thomas had his wisdom teeth removed, and just when he was recovering from that, he was slowed by a bout with the flu.

In total, he estimates he lost about seven pounds, and he admitted on Saturday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play that he wasn’t sure he’d be able to play the event.

“I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” Thomas said. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off, if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

Thomas went on to explain he was “50/50” whether he’d play the World Golf Championship, but decided to make the start and it’s turned out well for the world’s second-ranked player.

After going undefeated in pool play, Thomas cruised past Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5, in the round of 16 and secured himself a spot in the semifinals with a 2-and-1 victory over Kyle Stanley in the quarterfinals. If Thomas wins his semifinal match against Bubba Watson on Sunday, he’s assured enough points to overtake Dustin Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking.

“I don't care when it happens; I just hope it happens and it happens for a while,” Thomas said when asked about the possibility of becoming world No. 1. “I don't know what to say because I've never experienced it. I don't know what's going to come with it. But I just hope it happens tomorrow.”

Getty Images

Garnett's six-shot lead dwindles to two in Punta Cana

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 10:57 pm

PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic - Brice Garnett took a six-stroke lead into the wind Saturday in the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship. He came out with a two-stroke advantage.

Garnett bogeyed three of the final six holes in the wind and rain for a 3-under 69 and a 16-under 200 total.

''Once we made the turn coming back, all those holes coming in toward the north, it was all we wanted and then some,'' Garnett said. ''I kind of took advantage of some holes going out, some holes downwind, some par 5s, and then we were just trying to leave it in the right spot those last four or five holes. Pars are pretty good scores on those holes.''

Canadian Corey Conners was second after a 67, and Tyler McCumber also had a 67 to get to 12 under. Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo dropped out Friday, finishing last in the 132-man field in his PGA Tour debut. He shot 77-82 playing as an amateur on a sponsor exemption.

A stroke ahead after each of the first two rounds, Garnett opened with a bogey, birdied Nos. 2, 4 and 6, eagled the par-5 seventh, and made two more birdies on the par-3 ninth and par-5 12th. He bogeyed the par-4 13th, par-5 15th and par-3 17th.

Full-field scores from the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship

''I looked once and the lead was a little bigger than what it is now,'' Garnett said. ''The eagle was huge, kind of gave me that confidence that I can push it on out and stretch it a little bit more. That wind was tough and I'll take a two-shot lead into tomorrow.''

The 34-year-old Garnett is winless on the PGA Tour. He won twice last year on the Web.com Tour.

''You've got another 18 holes. So much can happen,'' Garnett said. ''Just going to try to keep the golf ball in front of me. I have that self-belief this week and that's what I had last year when I won, so I'll just keep my head down and just keep going.''

Conners had five birdies and a bogey on the front nine and added a birdie on No. 12.

''Really happy with the round,'' Conners said. ''I got off to a nice start, made a bunch of birdies on the front nine and kind of held it together on the back nine. It was playing really difficult. The wind was really blowing out there, made things challenging.''

McCumber, the son of 10-time PGA Tour winner Mark McCumber, has played his last 39 holes with a bogey.

''Second shots have been pretty solid,'' McCumber said. ''Putting pretty well, short game is pretty good. Just really being in the right areas and staying below the hole.''

Tom Lovelady was fourth at 11 under after a 68. Seamus Power (71), Denny McCarthy (71) and Seungsu Han (72) were 10 under.