Sunday, November 29, 2009

Tiger Woods Remaining Tight-Lipped Over Early-Hours Crash

Tiger Woods claimed full responsibility last night for Friday’s mysterious car crash but for the third consecutive day refused to give his side of the story to the police.

Unanswered questions lingered, adding to speculation about his private life. What exactly, the media asked, was his wife doing brandishing a golf club over his semi-conscious body when police arrived on the scene? And rumours, vehemently denied, that he had been conducting an affair threatened to dent the once-flawless veneer of the world’s richest sporting star.

Woods, 33, had agreed to meet officers from the Florida Highway Patrol at his $2.4 million home in Orlando to discuss the incident and bare what remained of his facial wounds for inspection. But an hour before the meeting he abruptly cancelled it and issued a statement blaming himself for the crash and praising his wife’s “courage”.

“This situation is my fault, and it’s obviously embarrassing to my family and me,” Woods said. “I’m human and I’m not perfect. I will certainly make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
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Despite his mea culpa, investigators are anxious to establish the circumstances leading up to the accident, in which he crashed his Cadillac Escalade into a fire hydrant outside his home then hit a neighbour’s tree. It happened shortly after 2am on Friday.

Compounding the intrigue were suggestions that bloody scratches on his face may have been inflicted before the crash during a showdown with his wife, the Swedish model Elin Nordegren, 29. She told police that she used a golf club to smash the back window of his car and rescue him from the wreckage.

Reports of inconsistencies in her story added to the drama, with the celebrity news website yesterday asserting that she gave conflicting accounts to officers at the scene, relating to how, when and why she fetched the golf club.

It quoted an unnamed friend of Woods saying that she had “gone ghetto” over allegations in the National Enquirer that he had been cheating on her with Rachel Uchitel, a New York party planner. Ms Nordegren scratched his face, then attacked his car with a golf club as he fled the house, causing him to crash, claimed.

Woods dismissed such reports as “absolutely false” in a statement published on his website. He complained of “malicious” rumours that were being spread irresponsibly about his private life.

A transcript of the emergency call made by a neighbour on Friday sheds little light on the incident. The caller can be heard telling dispatchers: “I need an ambulance immediately, I have someone down outside my house ... It’s a car accident ... My neighbour, he hit the tree. I see him and he’s laying down.”

When the dispatcher asked whether the person was unconscious, the neighbour replied: “Yes.”

Woods’ agent took more than a day to deny that the golfer had having an affair. Ms Uchitel — who first came to public attention in 2001, when her boyfriend was killed in the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre — has also insisted that reports of the affair are untrue and has hired the celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred to represent her.

Police first went to Woods’ mansion, in a gated community, on Friday, only for his wife to ask if they could return the next day because he was sleeping. While they were on their way back there on Saturday, the Florida Highway Patrol got a call from Woods’ agent to say that the couple were “unavailable” to talk until Sunday. Yesterday he was unavailable again.

Sergeant Kim Montes, a spokeswoman for the highway patrol, said: “It is unusual that we haven’t gotten a statement. This just delays us to getting closer to the completion of the investigation.”

Meanwhile, it came to light that although a highway patrol officer who attended the scene had noted on a report that the accident was not alcohol-related, neither a breath sample nor a blood sample was taken from Woods, who had spent Thursday celebrating Thanksgiving with his family.

Dan Rosenbaum, a lawyer who is not involved with the case, said: “He has a lot of endorsement money at stake, so he has to be very careful how this is handled and what the story is that comes out.”

He added that Woods and his advisers were likely to be working on a damage-control plan. “Lawyers will tell him to balance those sponsorship issues with what could be a career- ender. You might be able to live with talk of a domestic dispute, but you don’t want to be in a criminal situation.

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