With rumors of a sordid affair, a club-wielding wife and possible search warrants swirling around Tiger Woods, the golf pro has bowed out of his own annual charity golf tournament in southern California.
"I am extremely disappointed that I will not be at my tournament this week," said Woods, whose early-morning fender bender has suddenly morphed into a gargantuan PR fiasco. He added that he is certain that the Chevron World Challenge in Thousand Oaks, Calif., "will be an outstanding event, and I'm very sorry that I can't be there."
His comments came via a statement, since he has also canceled a news conference scheduled for today to announce the start of the tournament, which benefits Tiger Woods Foundation programs.
Meanwhile, Florida Highway Patrol officials have said they will continue to push forward with their investigation into why Woods slammed his luxury SUV into a neighborhood tree and fire hydrant in the wee hours of Friday morning. Woods, in a terse statement issued Sunday, said the matter is private and declined requests by police for interviews into the accident, in which he sustained minor injuries.
The gossip site TMZ.com, citing reports from The National Enquirer, said that the wreck followed an argument between Woods and his wife, Elin Nordegren, over the golfer’s alleged affair with New York socialite Rachel Uchitel. Woods, who suffered minor injuries in the accident, praised his wife for supposedly smashing out the back window of the SUV with a golf club and dragging him to safety.
But CNN reported Monday that police could be seeking a warrant to search Woods’ home and a subpoena of his medical records at the hospital. The goal, according to the report, would be to determine whether Woods might have been high on prescription drugs at the time of the accident, which is a crime in Florida, or whether his cuts and bruises were more consistent with domestic violence than a minor car accident.
But whether or not Woods is any legal trouble may not be his biggest problem. Perhaps even more crucial is whether the world’s richest and most famous athlete can fully awaken – endorsement-wise as well as image-wise – from his nightmare weekend.
Already, he has announced that he will not return to action until the PGA season resumes in 2010.
"We support Tiger's decision and are confident the strong field and excellent course will provide an exciting week of competition at the Chevron World Challenge," Greg McLaughlin, president of Woods' foundation, said.