Players moved by Woods' contrition

Cink and Donald touched by world No 1's words but others refuse to be drawn
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The Independent Online

It was a bizarre situation here in Arizona yesterday which seemed completely fitting to the events which had taken place in Jacksonville. As the golfers went out to contest the third round of the WGC World Match Play Championship they were asked to comment about a golfer who has not even played for three months. A few of them shrugged and walked on, others had a stern "no comment", while some appeared to have been touched by Tiger Woods' televised statement.

"I was moved by how difficult it seemed to be for him," said the Open champion, Stewart Cink. "It sounds like it's part of the recovery or the healing process that he has to go through.

"I've got a couple of good friends that have gone through the alcohol abuse programme and similar steps are taken in the healing process where you have to make amends to the people you've hurt. You have to start the bridge to the other side and I think that's where Tiger is. It sounded heartfelt to me. Tiger's a tough guy that is going to, like he said, overcome this. I have no idea [when Woods will return], but he'll do it when it's his time."

When he does return Cink does not believe that the recent rumblings of resentment concerning Woods' selfishness will manifest themselves in the locker room. "I think he'll be received well by his fellow players. One thing we have to remember – we've all made mistakes and all sinned. And forgiveness is a huge part of the process."

Luke Donald was also struck by how genuine Woods appeared. "I think it was a sincere apology," he said prior to playing his fellow Englishman Oliver Wilson. "Obviously, he made it very clear that he wants the media to leave his family alone, which I kind of agree with. It seems like he is getting the care and the help that he needs and, hopefully, he'll be back on tour whenever he's better."

There is a strong evangelical element on the PGA Tour and it was inevitable that forgiveness would play a big role in the reaction. Ben Crane spoke for many of the game's Bible set when urging the public and media to show mercy. "One of the first things that came to my mind is one of my favourite stories in the Bible," he said. "It's about a woman who has sinned and been a prostitute and everyone brings her before Jesus and says, 'Shouldn't we stone her? Shouldn't we kill her?' Jesus says, 'Absolutely stone her. But you without sin be the one to cast the first stone'.

"I thought it was an amazing conference. I thought he was very humble. I think we all love him as a golfer and as a family man. We want to see what's best for him and I think everything he did is going to help him get back soon."

Mark O'Meara, a long-standing friend of Woods, was just as impressed. "Today was a step in the right direction," he said. "He's doing the right things. He's going to take his time and make the right decisions. Tiger's a very intelligent person. He's meant a lot to the game and he's meant a lot to me and my family. His actions will speak more than the words for how he conducts himself over the rest of his life."

O'Meara had no doubt Woods' show of emotion during the press conference was authentic. "I think he was very genuine, that's Tiger. Tiger is a very protected individual – he doesn't really show a lot of emotion a lot of times. We know what kind of champion he is on and off the golf course but this is a big battle he's fighting right now. He's going to show to the people he can be a champion off the course. I know I've said before I was disappointed about what happened – who wouldn't be? – but with disappointment comes hope. He asked for forgiveness and, of course, I'll give mine. I love the kid."

O'Meara was invited to join the gathering in the room at Sawgrass but chose to play a seniors' event instead. Notah Begay did elect to attend and witnessed nothing but sincerity. "It's tough to get any man in America just to go to marriage counselling, let alone go into a 45-day rehabilitation," said the PGA Tour pro who has known Tiger since his college days. "Plus he's going back tomorrow, and that tells me that he's trying to learn about the issues... to learn about the thought processes that caused the actions, so that he can cut them off next time."