Jennifer Thomas is a bestselling author, psychologist, speaker, consultant & apology critic

Tiger Woods’ Public Apology: 4.5 (out of 5) Stars

In December, I posted here about Tiger Woods’ troubles.

Today, Tiger Woods held a news conference (no questions permitted) and offered a carefully-crafted public apology.  Tiger’s apology was extensive and it reminds me of this much less well-known public apology for infidelity.

Today, I had an opportunity to comment in the media about this apology.

My analysis:

Most apologies are better than no apology and this apology was better than most.  Tiger refrained from the invalidating words “If” and “But.”  He did not take this opportunity to disclose any other skeletons in his closet.  In fact, he brought up the question of performance-enhancing drugs from his Canadian physician and made a flat denial.  If or when more scandal finds Tiger Woods, it will take much away from what he has said today. This was his best chance to come clean and rebuild.

During college, I majored in both Psychology and Religious Studies.  Often, people who apologize will report that their religion has brought about inner change.  While religion is often thought of as a private matter, Tiger brought faith to the forefront in today’s statement, referring to his need to return to Buddhist principles. For better or worse, the world will be watching to see if he succeeds.

As for Tiger’s future, I am glad that he has undertaken treatment for sexual addiction (perhaps triggered by his grief over the loss of his beloved father in 2006).  I wish all the best to Tiger, his family, and the string of women who were hurt by his actions.

About the setting: Tiger maintained strict control, reading his statement, hugging his supporters, and leaving (as planned) without taking any questions.  Noticeably absent from Tiger’s side was his wife.  If media reports are true, she declined his request to be present for the news conference.  As a therapist who has met with many victims of infidelity, I resonate with her decision to let him stand alone to account for the things he did without her.

About his words: Here are the Five Languages of Apology that Gary Chapman and I developed based upon research for our (2006) book by the same title.

1. Expressing regret- Saying “I’m sorry for the hurt I’ve caused”

2. Accepting responsibility- Saying “I was wrong.”

3. Making restitution- Asking, “What can I do to make things right?

4. Genuinely repenting- Stating that you will try not to do it again.

5. Requesting forgiveness- Asking, “Will you please forgive me?”

Tiger touched upon all 5 of these languages, a real strength given that he is trying to convey his sincerity to all sorts of people.  He gave special emphasis to admitting wrongdoing (our 2nd language of apology).  He gave the least emphasis to requesting forgiveness (our 5th language of apology).  In fact, he folded his request for forgiveness into his last sentence as a request to “believe in him” again- for which I gave him .5 of a star.   I was pleased to see that he dropped his use of the defensive-sounding words “No one is perfect”, which he had publicly said before his stint in rehab. for sexual addiction.

Within his text below, I’ll insert the numbers that correspond to our Five Languages of Apology at the end of each section to which they pertain.  Please post comment about whether you agree or disagree with my assessment and what you think of Tiger’s overall apology!


Good morning, and thank you for joining me. Many of you in this room are my friends. Many of you in this room know me. Many of you have cheered for me or you’ve worked with me or you’ve supported me.

Now every one of you has good reason to be critical of me (2). I want to say to each of you, simply and directly, I am deeply sorry for my irresponsible and selfish behavior I engaged in (1,2).

I know people want to find out how I could be so selfish and so foolish (2). People want to know how I could have done these things to my wife, Elin, and to my children. And while I have always tried to be a private person, there are some things I want to say.

Elin and I have started the process of discussing the damage caused by my behavior (2). As Elin pointed out to me, my real apology to her will not come in the form of words; it will come from my behavior over time (4). We have a lot to discuss; however, what we say to each other will remain between the two of us.

I am also aware of the pain my behavior has caused to those of you in this room. I have let you down, and I have let down my fans. For many of you, especially my friends, my behavior has been a personal disappointment. To those of you who work for me, I have let you down personally and professionally. My behavior has caused considerable worry to my business partners (1).

To everyone involved in my foundation, including my staff, board of directors, sponsors and most importantly, the young students we reach, our work is more important than ever. Thirteen years ago, my dad and I envisioned helping young people achieve their dreams through education. This work remains unchanged and will continue to grow. From the Learning Center students in Southern California to the Earl Woods scholars in Washington, D.C., millions of kids have changed their lives, and I am dedicated to making sure that continues (Could be considered 3).

But still, I know I have bitterly disappointed all of you (2). I have made you question who I am and how I could have done the things I did. I am embarrassed that I have put you in this position (1).

For all that I have done, I am so sorry (1).

I have a lot to atone for (3), but there is one issue I really want to discuss. Some people have speculated that Elin somehow hurt or attacked me on Thanksgiving night. It angers me that people would fabricate a story like that. Elin never hit me that night or any other night. There has never been an episode of domestic violence in our marriage, ever. Elin has shown enormous grace and poise throughout this ordeal. Elin deserves praise, not blame.

The issue involved here was my repeated irresponsible behavior. I was unfaithful. I had affairs. I cheated. What I did is not acceptable, and I am the only person to blame (2).

I stopped living by the core values that I was taught to believe in. I knew my actions were wrong, but I convinced myself that normal rules didn’t apply. I never thought about who I was hurting. Instead, I thought only about myself. I ran straight through the boundaries that a married couple should live by. I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to. I felt that I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me. I felt I was entitled. Thanks to money and fame, I didn’t have to go far to find them (2).

I was wrong. I was foolish. I don’t get to play by different rules. The same boundaries that apply to everyone apply to me (2). I brought this shame on myself. I hurt my wife, my kids, my mother, my wife’s family, my friends, my foundation and kids all around the world who admired me (1).

I’ve had a lot of time to think about what I’ve done. My failures have made me look at myself in a way I never wanted to before. It’s now up to me to make amends (3) and that starts by never repeating the mistakes I’ve made. It’s up to me to start living a life of integrity (4).

I once heard, and I believe it’s true, it’s not what you achieve in life that matters; it’s what you overcome. Achievements on the golf course are only part of setting an example. Character and decency are what really count (4).

Parents used to point to me as a role model for their kids. I owe all those families a special apology. I want to say to them that I am truly sorry (1).

It’s hard to admit that I need help, but I do. For 45 days from the end of December to early February, I was in inpatient therapy receiving guidance for the issues I’m facing. I have a long way to go. But I’ve taken my first steps in the right direction (3,4).

As I proceed, I understand people have questions. I understand the press wants to ask me for the details and the times I was unfaithful. I understand people want to know whether Elin and I will remain together. Please know that as far as I’m concerned, every one of these questions and answers is a matter between Elin and me. These are issues between a husband and a wife.

Some people have made up things that never happened. They said I used performance-enhancing drugs. This is completely and utterly false. Some have written things about my family. Despite the damage I have done, I still believe it is right to shield my family from the public spotlight. They did not do these things; I did (2).

I have always tried to maintain a private space for my wife and children. They have been kept separate from my sponsors, my commercial endorsements. When my children were born, we only released photographs so that the paparazzi could not chase them. However, my behavior doesn’t make it right for the media to follow my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter to school and report the school’s location. They staked out my wife and they pursued my mom. Whatever my wrongdoings, for the sake of my family, please leave my wife and kids alone.

I recognize I have brought this on myself (2), and I know above all I am the one who needs to change (4). I owe it to my family to become a better person. I owe it to those closest to me to become a better man. That’s where my focus will be (4).

I have a lot of work to do, and I intend to dedicate myself to doing it (4). Part of following this path for me is Buddhism, which my mother taught me at a young age. People probably don’t realize it, but I was raised a Buddhist, and I actively practiced my faith from childhood until I drifted away from it in recent years. Buddhism teaches that a craving for things outside ourselves causes an unhappy and pointless search for security. It teaches me to stop following every impulse and to learn restraint (4). Obviously, I lost track of what I was taught (2).

As I move forward, I will continue to receive help because I’ve learned that’s how people really do change. Starting tomorrow, I will leave for more treatment and more therapy (3). I would like to thank my friends at Accenture and the players in the field this week for understanding why I’m making these remarks today.

In therapy, I’ve learned the importance of looking at my spiritual life and keeping in balance with my professional life. I need to regain my balance and be centered so I can save the things that are most important to me — my marriage and my children (4).

That also means relying on others for help. I’ve learned to seek support from my peers in therapy (4), and I hope someday to return that support to others who are seeking help (3). I do plan to return to golf one day, 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 (4). In recent weeks, I have received many thousands of e-mails, letters and phone calls from people expressing good wishes. To everyone who has reached out to me and my family, thank you. Your encouragement means the world to Elin and me.

I want to thank the PGA Tour, Commissioner Finchem and the players for their patience and understanding while I work on my private life. I look forward to seeing my fellow players on the course.

Finally, there are many people in this room, and there are many people at home who believed in me. Today, I want to ask for your help. I ask you to find room in your heart to one day believe in me again (part of 5: half credit given).

Thank you.

Post by:  Jennifer Thomas

Find links to my interviews and articles: Facebook.



4 Responses to “Tiger Woods’ Public Apology: 4.5 (out of 5) Stars”

  1. Tricia

    I think tiger made progress with his apology. He outlined some steps to healing and change. Who are we to judge if he is sincere? More important to cheer for him now in this uphill climb he is facing, than any game he ever played!

    • Candy

      Hello Tricia,
      I know that if we can’t forgive we will not make it in to see God.
      I believe that tiger is truly sorry for his behavior. He annouced to the world that he was sorry. If God can for give us then, who are we that we canno forgive him. The ones without sin cast the first stone. I can’t cast the first stone because I too have come short so many times. But God is a forgiving God. So, let’t continue to be prayful for him and his family. Shame on those women that want to complain to the media when e both know as women, a man will only go as far as we allow them. I wish Tiger the best and prayfully his wife will forgive him and if not move on with her life.

  2. Rob

    Words said may express a 4.5 out of 5 but surely apologies are more than words said. Should not a sense of genuineness also be included. The overwhelming feeling from this exercise was that this was a PR move, written by PR specialists (clearly very effectively), and delivered by a good actor. I would say the PR writers got a 4.5, Tiger perhaps a 1.


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