Tiger Woods Declares Crash 'a Private Matter;' Lawyer Says He Won't Talk With Cops

Tiger praises wife and denounces "malicious" rumors. Cops release 911 tape.

November 27, 2009, 2:52 PM

Nov. 29, 2009— -- Tiger Woods today broke his silence about the SUV accident that landed him in the hospital early Friday, calling it "a private matter," but he backed out of an interview with investigators for a third straight day and his lawyer indicated to ABC News that the golf great would never talk to police.

After days of silence, Woods issued a written statement that praised his wife for "acting courageously" to help him after his accident and denounced "unfounded and malicious rumors that are currently circulating about my family and me."

He said the incident was "a private matter and I want to keep it that way."

Woods' lawyer, Mark NeJame, told ABC News, "We stand by his (Woods') previously released statement, regarding his privacy," and said neither he nor Woods would be making comments to anybody, including, in Woods' case, the police.

With Woods and his wife refusing to talk with law enforcement, police are apparently left with no witnesses to what happened early Friday morning and very little to go on in their investigation.

Earlier today, the Florida Highway Patrol released audio of a photos showing 911 call by a neighbor reporting the accident and revealed that for a third day, Woods refused to talk to officers.

"Just after 1:00 p.m., lawyer Mark NeJame contacted the Florida Highway Patrol to inform us that he is representing Tiger Woods," read a statement from highway patrol spokeswoman Sgt. Kim Montes. "NeJame stated that the interview that was scheduled for today has been canceled. ... The traffic crash remains under investigation and charges are pending."

Investigators previously were turned away at Woods' Orange County, Fla., home both Friday and Saturday. They had hoped to visit Woods' home again around 3 p.m. ET today.

If Woods, 33, and his wife, Elin Nordegren, 29, choose to say nothing, officials simply may proceed with the investigation without their statement.

Woods and his wife are not required to give a statement to police about the accident, but if either does it must be truthful, Florida legal experts said. If not, they added, there is a slim chance they could be charged with resisting arrest without violence, a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Rather than speaking to police, Woods appealed directly to the public on his TigerWoods.com home page.

"As you all know, I had a single-car accident earlier this week, and sustained some injuries. I have some cuts, bruising and right now I'm pretty sore," his statement said.

"This situation is my fault," it continued, "and it's obviously embarrassing to my family and me. I'm human and I'm not perfect. I will certainly make sure this doesn't happen again. This is a private matter and I want to keep it that way. Although I understand there is curiosity, the many false, unfounded and malicious rumors that are currently circulating about my family and me are irresponsible. "

911 Recording, Photos Give Details on Tiger Woods' Accident

In the hours before the statement, bits of new information about the crash fed the public curiosity Woods cited.

Today, The Wall Street Journal first reported elements of the 911 call made by the neighbor who heard the accident and observed the scene.

"I need an ambulance immediately," the caller said at the start of the recording, which lasted more than four minutes over a shaky connection and featured numerous drop-outs. "I have someone down in front of my house. They hit a pole."

He added, "I have a neighbor, he hit the tree and we came out here to see what's going on."

The caller said the victim, who turned out to be Woods, was "laying on the ground," apparently unconscious.

"We don't know what happened. We're figuring it all out right now," the caller said before the phone connection was lost.

The 911 call came in at 2:28 a.m. Friday and officers arrived at 2:33 a.m., the Orange County Sheriff's Office said. Upon arriving, they saw Woods in the condition the caller described -- unconscious on the ground, but breathing, according to a sheriff's dispatch report.

On Saturday, ABC News affiliate WFTV was first to run photos showing Woods' black Cadillac Escalade smashed into a tree.

The WFTV images and 911 information fit the initial, broad police descriptions of the event -- that Woods crashed his vehicle into a fire hydrant and then a tree near his Windermere, Fla., home.

The eight crash photos on WFTV showed the SUV's front passenger tire crashed into the tree with a golf cart and blanket beside it. The eyewitness who took the photos said there were two golf irons in the street and both backseat windows were broken, WFTV reported.

Windermere, Fla., Police Chief Daniel Saylor said Friday that Nordegren, who told officers she was in their house when she heard the accident and came outside, used a golf club to smash out the back window and get her husband out of the car.

"My two officers arrived to the scene and found Tiger Woods laying on the ground in front of his vehicle with his wife over him rendering first aid," Saylor said, according to WFTV.

Tiger Woods: 'My Wife, Elin, Acted Courageously'

But open questions remain, such as where Woods might have been going at such an early morning hour, how he lost control of his vehicle, and whether any other circumstances contributed to his sustaining facial lacerations, and ending up bloodied, unconscious and bound for a hospital.

Such questions fueled online reports including purported details about the accident unconfirmed by ABC News.

Woods' statement suggested Saylor's account of Nordegren's role might be the whole story.

"The only person responsible for the accident is me," Woods said. "My wife, Elin, acted courageously when she saw I was hurt and in trouble. She was the first person to help me. Any other assertion is absolutely false.

"This incident has been stressful and very difficult for Elin, our family and me," he added. "I appreciate all the concern and well wishes that we have received. But, I would also ask for some understanding that my family and I deserve some privacy no matter how intrusive some people can be."

After his wife's aid, Woods was en route to a hospital because of his injuries by 2:52 a.m., the sheriff's dispatch report said.

He later was released from Health Central Hospital in Ococee, Fla. after being treated for what the hospital and Woods' publicist described as "minor" injuries.

The sheriff's office departed the scene at 3:53 a.m. and turned over the case to the Florida Highway Patrol.

Two Florida Highway Patrol troopers initially tried to interview Woods Friday evening at his home, according to The Associated Press, but Nordegren turned them away, saying Woods was sleeping.

Investigators returned to Woods' home Saturday around 3 p.m. for what they thought was a scheduled appointment, only to emerge less than an hour later.

"The Florida Highway Patrol has received information that Tiger Woods and his wife were not available to be interviewed by state troopers, as we had previously scheduled," Montes said in an e-mail afterwards. "This announcement came from his agent. Troopers were asked to return [Sunday]."

Tiger Woods' Condition: From 'Serious' to 'Minor'

Confusion over Woods' condition after the accident seemed to fuel rumors.

The Highway Patrol put out a release Friday afternoon saying, "Injuries: Serious." But a spokesman later clarified that the agency's reports always classify people's conditions as serious if they are taken to a hospital.

Woods' publicist, Glenn Greenspan, released a statement later Friday afternoon: "Tiger Woods was in a minor car accident outside his home last night. He was admitted, treated and released today in good condition.''

The hospital, through Greenspan, later put out a similar brief statement.

Officials have said Woods pulled out of the driveway at his residence in an exclusive subdivision called Isleworth, near Orlando, Fla., and began to drive on Deacon Circle when he struck the hydrant.

Investigators said alcohol was not involved. The Associated Press reported that the vehicle's airbags did not deploy.

Since the accident, police have talked of an ongoing investigation and said possible charges were "pending."

However, Florida legal experts told ABC News on Sunday that it appeared charges were unlikely.

Even so, besides the possibility of a resisting arrest charge stemming from any false statement to authorities, Woods could be charged with careless driving -- a civil infraction carrying a fine of less than $200 -- for hitting the fire hydrant and tree, they said.

Making charge less likely, they added, was the apparent absence of witnesses to say Woods actually was driving carelessly and the fact that accident occurred on an apparently private road not open to the public.

ABC News' Susan Donaldson James and Jason Stine contributed to this report.