Tiger Woods says he will take "an indefinite break from professional golf" to cope with the ongoing fallout caused by "my infidelity."
"I am deeply aware of the disappointment and hurt that my infidelity has caused to so many people, most of all my wife and children," he wrote late Friday on his official Web site. "I want to say again to everyone that I am profoundly sorry and that I ask forgiveness. It may not be possible to repair the damage I've done, but I want to do my best to try."
The announcement came after new reports from both sides of the Atlantic claimed the golfer paid for sex with prostitutes and that Woods and wife Elin Nordegren are considering an escape to Sweden to plan their next move.
Woods' use of the word "infidelity" apparently amounts to his first public admission that he was unfaithful to his wife amid claims by multiple women, in the weeks since his Nov. 27 auto accident, that they had affairs with him.
"After much soul searching, I have decided to take an indefinite break from professional golf," Woods wrote. "I need to focus my attention on being a better husband, father, and person.
"Again," he added, "I ask for privacy for my family and I am especially grateful for all those who have offered compassion and concern during this difficult period."
Neither Woods' statement nor a subsequent one by his agent, Mark Steinberg, offered a timetable for Woods' return to golf.
"As his agent and friend, I stand fully behind Tiger and support his decision wholeheartedly," Steinberg wrote. "What Tiger and his family need now is time away and private space so that they can recover from all that's happened and try to restore some well-being to their lives.
"The entirety of someone's life is more important than just a professional career," Steinberg added. "What matters most is a young family that is trying to cope with difficult life issues in a secluded and caring way. Whenever Tiger may return to the game should be on the family's terms alone."
While he said he was stepping back from golf for personal reasons, Woods acknowledged his decision would resonate well beyond his family. He asked his associates "including my fans, the good people at my foundation, business partners, the PGA Tour, and my fellow competitors, for their understanding."
Initially, it seemed, he was getting his wish.
The PGA Tour said that it supported the decision by its biggest star, according to The Associated Press. The prepared statement was the PGA's first public comment since Woods mentioned his "personal failings" on the Web Dec. 2.
"His priorities are where they need to be, and we will continue to respect and honor his family's request for privacy," PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said. "We look forward to Tiger's return to the PGA Tour when he determines the time is right for him."
Companies associated with Woods also endorsed the decision.
Nike spokeswoman Beth Gast said, "Tiger has been part of Nike for more than a decade. He is the best golfer in the world and one of the greatest athletes of his era. We look forward to his return to golf. He and his family have Nike's full support."
However, AT&T, another company for which Woods does endorsements, reserved judgment on future dealings.
"We support Tiger's decision and our thoughts will be with him and his family," the statement said. "We are presently evaluating our ongoing relationship with him."