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Woods to take 'an indefinite break' from golf

Admits infidelity, cites need to focus on family, 'personal healing'

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 12, 2009

Tiger Woods announced Friday that he will take an "indefinite" leave from golf in an attempt to repair his personal life, while also admitting to infidelity in his marriage.

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The disclosure comes two weeks after a single-car accident near his Florida home led to the revelation of a long list of alleged mistresses, sullying the name of an athlete once upheld as a role model and the perfect pitchman for corporations wanting to enhance their brand.

Writing under his own name on his personal Web site, Woods pleaded for privacy -- a commodity that has been elusive in the two weeks of reports about transgressions in his personal life -- and said he needed to take time away from the game that has defined him in order to save his marriage to Elin Nordegren, the mother of his two young children. He gave no indication when he might play again.

"I am deeply aware of the disappointment and hurt that my infidelity has caused to so many people, most of all my wife and children," Woods said. "I want to say again to everyone that I am profoundly sorry and that I ask forgiveness. It may not be possible to repair the damage I've done, but I want to do my best to try."

Woods, perhaps the world's best-known athlete, who has been in the public eye since he was a California teenager, has neither spoken publicly nor been seen since his single-car accident. His only public comments have come in missives on his Web site, the first trying to play down the car accident, another admitting to and apologizing for "transgressions." He did not play in a tournament that benefits his own foundation last week in Southern California.

A slew of reports -- mostly by celebrity magazines and gossip Web sites and television shows -- have brought forth a number of women who claim to have had relationships with Woods during his five-year marriage to Nordegren. Salacious text messages and a voice mail have become daily material for reports, and the names of some women have been among the most popular topics on search engines such as Google.

In that environment, as he had in previous posts, Woods pleaded for privacy for himself and his family, and wrote of a need for "personal healing."

"After much soul-searching, I have decided to take an indefinite break from professional golf," he wrote. "I need to focus my attention on being a better husband, father and person."

The blow to the PGA Tour could be significant, depending on the length of Woods's absence. When he missed nearly eight months because of reconstructive knee surgery during the second half of 2008, television ratings for professional golf were cut in half. Since Woods won the Masters in 1997, his first full season on tour, tournaments have been divided into two categories -- those with Woods, and those without, with the former commanding far more attention and prestige than the latter.

"We fully support Tiger's decision to step away from competitive golf to focus on his family," PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said in a statement Friday evening. "His priorities are where they need to be, and we will continue to respect and honor his family's request for privacy. We look forward to Tiger's return to the PGA Tour when he determines the time is right for him."

Woods, who turns 34 on Dec. 30, would normally start his PGA schedule in late January in La Jolla, Calif., home to the Torrey Pines Golf Course and site of his last major victory, the 2008 U.S. Open, when he unforgettably overcame journeyman professional Rocco Mediate in an event that lasted one extra day and 19 extra holes. Woods later admitted he played the event with a broken bone in his leg and torn knee ligaments.

Woods gave no indication when he might play -- or speak publicly -- again.

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