"I'm asked why people don't often see me and Elin in gossip magazines or tabloids," Tiger Woods wrote on his Facebook page a few weeks ago. "I think we've avoided a lot of media attention because we're kind of boring."
Not so boring now, it seems. Holed up at his Florida home, nursing injuries he sustained in – or in the run-up to – a car prang in the small hours of Friday morning, the world golf's No 1 is at the centre of a frenzy of media speculation that threatens his goodie-two-shoes image.
Agents and media lawyers moved in only slightly behind the ambulancemen who arrived at the scene, in an attempt to control the situation, but after Woods and his wife, the Swedish former au pair Elin Nordegren, twice delayed giving a statement to police, the tabloids spent the weekend filling the vacuum.
By yesterday evening, Woods had claimed sole responsibility for the crash insisting his wife acted "courageously" when she saw he was hurt. But other theories were already spreading. According to one, Woods' low-speed crash came after the couple had a furious row over gossip-magazine reports of an illicit liaison in Melbourne with a New York nightclub hostess, Rachel Uchitel, 34, and he fled in his sport utility vehicle. For the golf star, it was allegedly a case of exit left, pursued by woman bearing a golf club. The car hit a fire hydrant and a neighbour's tree; internet wags are already calling it his shortest drive.
The celebrity news website TMZ.com – which broke the death of Michael Jackson – reported that investigators believe Woods may have sustained at least some of his injuries before getting in the car. A friend of the star told TMZ how Woods told him his wife had "gone ghetto". Even the august financial organ that is The Wall Street Journal weighed in, reporting details of a 911 call made by a neighbour who told the operator that he "wanted help" and said "there's a man on the ground". The recording shows that Woods appeared to be unconscious but breathing as he lay beside his black Cadillac Escalade. Police arrived at 2.33am.
The golfer last night dismissed the speculation with a terse response. "The many false, unfounded and malicious rumours that are currently circulating about my family and me are irresponsible," he said on his website. "The only person responsible for the accident is me." The facts may take longer to establish. The golfer turned down requests to be interviewed by the police for a third time last night. Officers had been told by Ms Nordegren on Friday that Woods was recuperating, and by the star's agent on Saturday that he wanted another day before making a statement.
As host of this week's Chevron World Challenge, Woods is due to hold a press conference tomorrow, prompting speculation on how he will appear. Ms Uchitel, meanwhile, has hired star lawyer Gloria Allred to represent her. She said she knew Woods after meeting him in Las Vegas but never encountered him in Melbourne.