Tiger all but admits he's been unfaithful to his wife

After nearly a week of tabloid headlines, innuendo and half-truths, the most famous athlete on the planet all but admitted to being unfaithful as new allegations of an affair emerged.

Tiger Woods posted a statement on his Web site Wednesday admitting to "transgressions'' that he "regrets with all my life.''

"I have not been true to my values and the behavior my family deserves,'' the No. 1 golfer said. "I am not without faults and I am far short of perfect.

"I will strive to be a better person and the husband and father that my family deserves. For all of those who have supported me over the years, I offer my profound apology.''

Woods didn't say what exactly he was apologizing for, but the mea culpa came just hours after US Weekly reported that the golfer and ad pitchman had repeatedly cheated on wife Elin Nordegren with a 24-year-old Los Angeles cocktail waitress.

And unlike other allegations made public after Woods' now-infamous car accident outside his Windermere home early Friday, the cocktail waitress story comes with some proof: a voice mail recording, which US Weekly claims Woods left with the woman in question, Jaimee Grubbs.

The recording, which US Weekly posted on its website alongside Grubbs' claim that she had a 31-month relationship with Woods, included the following message purportedly left by the golfer three days before wrapping his SUV around a neighbor's tree:

"Hey, it's Tiger. I need you to do me a huge favor. Can you please take your name off your phone. My wife went through my phone. And may be calling you.''

Tabloids have also linked him to a third woman, although Woods did not address any specific accusation in his statement.

For Woods, the drama caps an embarrassing, public fall from grace that began just after 2 a.m. Friday.

No sooner did Woods leave the hospital after his SUV crash when a whirlwind of speculation surrounded him, fueled by reports by and The National Enquirer.

Woods, an intensely private man, was suddenly besieged with accusations of infidelity, most particularly connected with New York nightclub manager Rachel Uchitel -- which Uchitel has strongly denied.

As the accusations poured forth, Woods shut down. He pulled out of his own golf tournament and stayed away from cameras and the Florida Highway Patrol -- which on three separate occasions tried to interview Woods about the wreck, only to have him cancel the meetings.

Authorities closed their investigation into the incident Tuesday, issuing Woods a ticket for careless driving.

The tabloids, however, were far from through.

With Wednesday came Grubbs' story. She claims to have met Woods at a Las Vegas nightclub the week after the 2007 Masters -- two months before Nordegren gave birth to the couple's first child. Grubbs also said she has 300 text messages as further proof.

That prompted Woods' 316-word apology, which he and his handlers hope will begin to put the issue to rest.

But Howard Rubenstein, a crisis management expert who counseled comedian Michael Richards after the Seinfeld star went on a racist rant in a Los Angeles club three years ago, thinks significant damage has been done.

"He was very late in coming up with that statement,'' Rubenstein said. "His image of being a perfect husband has been shattered.''

Woods has put himself in a situation similar to what Alex Rodriguez slogged through last spring, when revelations emerged that the Miami-bred baseball star had used performance enhancing drugs.

In 2007, Rodriguez flatly denied using the drugs in a nationally televised interview, but came clean two years later after damning evidence emerged.

Rodriguez appeared on ESPN to apologize for and explain his steroid use. Months later, he went on to win his first World Series as a member of the New York Yankees.

Rubenstein thinks a televised interview would be ill-advised for Woods.

"He has to regain his focus on playing golf,'' Rubenstein said. "He has to try to regain his position as the No. 1 golfer in the world.''

Regaining that image will take some time. The event he skipped was his last of the year.

But will the passage of time and dominance on the golf course be enough for Woods to hang onto his most lucrative business, his enormous endorsement franchise? He is said to be worth $1 billion, with roughly 80 percent of that sum coming from corporate partnerships.

Woods has major deals with Nike, Gatorade and Gillette, and early signs are those corporate titans aren't going anywhere.

"Nike supports Tiger and his family,'' the shoe company said in a written statement. "Our relationship remains unchanged.''

"Given the nature of the products Woods helps sell -- razors, sports drinks and golf clubs -- he will likely get more leeway than if he were a spokesman for a more family-oriented product.

"I don't think those companies are going to shy away from him because of this, particularly because of the impact he has on their brand,'' said Patrick Walsh, a sports administration professor at the University of Miami. "At the end of the day, knowing the impact of Tiger, they know it will blow over.''

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