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Sports

Tiger Woods Says Medication, Not Alcohol, Led to DUI Arrest

Woods, a 14-time major champion who ranks No. 2 in PGA Tour history with 79 victories, has not played golf for four months

Golfer Tiger Woods prepares to sign copies of his new book at a book signing in New York, photo: AP/Seth Wenig
4 months ago

Players arriving for a tournament this week at Muirfield Village might notice a framed picture of Tiger Woods with a resplendent smile and bright red shirt. He’s posed there with the trophy, an image that embodies the excitement he once brought to golf.

A far different photo emerged Monday, this one from the Palm Beach County jail in Florida after Woods was arrested on a DUI charge.

Sullen, lifeless eyes.

Thinning hair mussed at the top. Scraggly facial hair. A white T-shirt.

In another stunning development for a player who became one of the dominant figures in sports, Woods was arrested on suspicion of DUI and spent nearly four hours in jail before he was released on his own recognizance.

Woods said an “unexpected reaction” to prescription medicine — not alcohol — was the reason for his arrest. He said he understands the severity of the incident and takes full responsibility.

“I want the public to know that alcohol was not involved,” he said. “What happened was an unexpected reaction to prescribed medications. I didn’t realize the mix of medications had affected me so strongly.”

Woods said he wanted to apologize to his family, friends and fans, adding that “I expect more from myself, too.”

“I will do everything in my power to ensure this never happens again,” he said.

Jupiter Police spokeswoman Kristin Rightler said an arrest report may be available Tuesday.

Woods, a 14-time major champion who ranks No. 2 in PGA Tour history with 79 victories, has not played golf for four months. He had a fourth back surgery on April 20, and just five days ago reported on his website that the fusion surgery brought instant relief from pain and that he “hasn’t felt better in years.”

Rightler said Woods was arrested about 3 a.m. Monday on Military Trail, a six-lane road south of Indian Creek Parkway. He was about 20 minutes from his home on Jupiter Island. His statement did not indicate where he was going at that hour or where he had been.

Woods’ agent at Excel Sports, Mark Steinberg, did not respond to a voicemail from press seeking comment. PGA Tour spokesman Ty Votaw said the tour would have no comment.

Players arriving at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio, for the Memorial did not want to comment, either.

Within an hour of the news, they all had seen the photo.

Notah Begay, a close friend and roommate of Woods when they played at Stanford, was empathetic. Begay was arrested for aggravated drunken driving in 2000 when he ran into a car outside a bar in New Mexico. He was sentenced to 364 days in jail, with all but seven days suspended.

“It’s embarrassing for Tiger, something that you can’t go back and change,” Begay said on Golf Channel from the NCAA men’s golf championship in Sugar Grove, Illinois, where he was working for the network. “I’ve been there myself. … But it was a turning point in my life. Hopefully, it’s something he’ll learn from, grow from, take responsibility for and use it to make some changes.”

Begay later said on Golf Channel he had exchanged text messages with Woods after the arrest.

“He seemed like he was in a better place,” Begay said.

Woods has not been seen at a golf tournament since he opened with a 77 at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic in February, withdrawing the next day because of back spasms. He was in Los Angeles for the Genesis Open, run by his Tiger Woods Foundation, but he did not come to the course at Riviera because of his back.

He was at the Masters, but only to attend the dinner for past champions.

Woods, who had been No. 1 longer than any other golfer, has not been a factor since his last victory in August 2013 as he battled through back surgeries from a week before the 2014 Masters until his most recent fusion surgery on his lower back a month ago.

This was the first time Woods has run into trouble off the golf course since he plowed his SUV into a tree and a fire hydrant outside his Windermere, Florida, home in the early morning after Thanksgiving in 2009, which led to revelations that he had multiple extramarital affairs.

A police report then showed that a Florida trooper who suspected Woods was driving under the influence sought a subpoena for the golfer’s blood test results from the hospital, but prosecutors rejected the petition for insufficient information.

A witness, who wasn’t identified in the report, told the trooper he had been drinking alcohol earlier. The same witness also said Woods had been prescribed two drugs, the sleep aid Ambien and the painkiller Vicodin. The report did not say who the witness was but said it was the same person who pulled Woods from the vehicle after the accident. Woods’ wife has told police that she used a golf club to smash the back windows of the Cadillac Escalade to help her husband out.

He eventually was cited for careless driving and fined $164.

Woods and wife Elin Nordegren divorced in 2010. He later had a relationship with Olympic ski champion Lindsey Vonn that lasted two years.

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