Woods is still a premier attraction

A PUBLIC confession of philandering by Tiger Woods will not dissuade the State Government from its bid to draw the world's greatest golfer back to Melbourne next year.

Premier John Brumby said that Woods would be more than welcome to defend the Australian Masters title he won last month at Kingston Heath.

Radio personality Meredith Walusek holds a sign reading "Tiger - they offered me $500,000 - I'm keeping my mouth shut!" near the Woods home. Photo: AFP

Brumby said Woods had sparked new interest in golf with his visit. ''You are seeing young people coming back to golf. You are seeing people renewing membership, and the example he set in the way in which he stormed back on that Sunday and won the tournament was a great example,'' he said.

The Premier said it would be April or May next year before Woods decided whether he would return.

The fall from grace of Woods, arguably the most famous athlete on the planet, has presented the government and local golf authorities with a thorny question. Will there be any backlash if they draw him back to Melbourne next year?

Brumby was by Woods' side at key moments of last month's Australian Masters. The government tipped in $1.5 million through the Victorian Major Events Company, and was known to be mightily pleased at the return. Not only was the ''economic benefit'' said to reap far above the initial estimates of $19 million, but Woods won the tournament and charmed everyone.

Masters tournament director Marcus Gale said it was too early to tell whether the first major crisis of Woods' career would affect a trip to Australia to defend the Masters. ''I've got no idea how it will impact,'' said Gale. ''He's got to sort himself out personally. It's something I'm unable to comment about.''
Woods released a second statement on his website in which he apologized to his family for ''transgressions''. He did not specify any incidents, although one magazine and several websites have dug up claims of affairs with women.

''I have let my family down and I regret those transgressions with all of my heart,'' Woods said. ''I have not been true to my values and the behaviour my family deserves. I am not without faults and I am far short of perfect. I am dealing with my behaviour and personal failings behind closed doors with my family. Those feelings should be shared by us alone.''

Woods last week crashed his vehicle into a fire hydrant and a neighbor’s tree near his Isleworth, Florida, home at 2.25am. Police cited him for careless driving and he has been required to pay a small fine and damages.

But rumours began circulating about the reasons for the accident, with one newspaper suggesting that it followed a heated argument with his wife Elin over an article in the National Enquirer alleging that he had an affair when he traveled to Australia. The magazine published photographs of Rachel Uchitel, a night club hostess, checking into Crown in Melbourne the same week as Woods came for the Masters. She has denied they had an affair.

Two other women have claimed affairs with Woods, including one who released a voicemail message through the magazine US Weekly purportedly left by the world's No. 1 golfer and asking her to mask her identity. ''Hey, it's, uh, it's Tiger.

The Age

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