THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Tiger Woods withdrew Monday from his own golf tournament, citing injuries from a car crash near his Florida home. He said he would not compete again until next year.
Woods said in a statement on his website that his injuries prevented him from playing in the Chevron World Challenge, which he hosts annually for a small, invited, field.
“I am extremely disappointed that I will not be at my tournament this week,” Woods said. “I am certain it will be an outstanding event and I’m very sorry that I can’t be there.”
His decision to withdraw comes after a car crash left him with cuts and bruises when his SUV hit a fire hydrant and a tree at 2:25 a.m. Friday outside his home in an exclusive, gated community near Orlando. Woods was treated and released from a hospital after the accident, and has not been seen in public since.
By skipping the tournament, Woods will escape having to face TV cameras and a horde of media seeking more details about the smashup. The tournament was to be the last of the year for Woods anyway, but he did not say just when he would make his return next year.
The first tournament of the 2010 PGA Tour is the SBS Championship, a tournament for winners from the previous year, in Hawaii beginning Jan. 7.
Woods released a statement Sunday saying the accident was his fault, but he did not address any of the questions still swirling around it. He asked that it remain “a private matter,” but with the Florida Highway Patrol still investigating and the media in full pursuit, Woods may not get his way.
Woods even faced questions from fans leaving comments on his own Web site. Most voiced support for the world’s No. 1 golfer, but some said he should address the questions about his own actions and those of his wife, Elin Nordegren, before and after the accident.
Woods hasn’t answered questions from Florida troopers, either, turning them down three days in a row. Meanwhile, the tabloid-fuelled rumours continue to swirl around perhaps the richest and most-recognizable athletes in the world.
Four cars were parked in Woods’ driveway Monday, but no lights appeared to be on inside. A new fire hydrant had already replaced the one that Woods plowed into. A dirt hole and an orange barricade remained in the old hydrant’s place.
Woods, who both hosts and plays in the Chevron World Challenge, was there last year even though he couldn’t play because he was recovering from knee surgery. His absence this year will be the first since the tournament — which has only an 18-player field — began in 1999.
Though he cited injuries from the accident in withdrawing from the tournament, Woods didn’t specifically say what those injuries included. The neighbour, who called 911 after Woods ran over the hydrant and hit a tree, said he was unconscious and laying outside his SUV. His wife told Windermere police she used a golf club to smash the back windows to help him out.
Woods’ only public comment has been via two statements released on his website, one saying the accident was his fault alone and the second saying he was withdrawing from the tournament.
“This is a private matter and I want to keep it that way,” Woods said. “Although I understand there is curiosity, the many false, unfounded and malicious rumours that are currently circulating about my family and me are irresponsible. …
“I appreciate all the concern and well wishes that we have received,” the statement concluded. “But, I would also ask for some understanding that my family and I deserve some privacy no matter how intrusive some people can be.”
The reference to “false, unfounded and malicious rumours” may have involved a story published last week in the National Enquirer alleging that Woods had been seeing a New York nightclub hostess, and that they recently were together in Melbourne, where Woods competed in the Australian Masters.
The woman, Rachel Uchitel, denied having an affair with Woods when contacted by The Associated Press. On Sunday, she flew to Los Angeles and was met by high-profile attorney Gloria Allred at the airport.
Still, even the release of the 911 tape and Woods’ statement failed to answer several basic questions about the accident:
— Where he was going at that time of the night?
— How did he lose control of his SUV when it wasn’t going fast enough to deploy airbags?
— Why were both rear windows of the Cadillac Escalade smashed?
— If it was a careless mistake, why not speak to state troopers trying to wrap the investigation?