A tired-looking Tiger Woods told the world Friday that he is "deeply sorry" for his "selfish and irresponsible" behaviour.

"I have bitterly disappointed all of you," Woods told a small group gathered for the announcement at the clubhouse at the TPC Sawgrass, home of the PGA Tour.

"I was unfaithful. I had affairs. I cheated. What I did was not acceptable and I am the only person to blame," Woods said calmly as he stared directly into the camera.

"I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to. I felt that I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me. I felt I was entitled," Woods said.

"I was wrong. I was foolish. I don't get to play by different rules; the same rules that apply to everyone apply to me."

In his first public appearance since his sordid sex scandal grabbed headlines in late November, Woods spoke for about 13 minutes to a carefully chosen group of 40 friends, colleagues and family members. Among those present were his mother. His wife, Elin Nordegren, could not be seen.

While admitting that he has just completed 45 days of in-patient care, "receiving guidance for the issues I am facing," Woods confirmed that he is returning for further therapy and would not be rejoining the golf circuit anytime soon. He added though that he might return by the end of the year.

"I do plan to return to golf one day, I just don't know when that day will be. I don't rule out it will be this year," he said.

"When I do return, I need to make my behaviour more respectful of the game."

Responding to Woods' announcement, PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said that pro golf will gladly welcome its best player back.

"The good news from today is that: one he plans to return, two he could return as early this year and three, he clearly has taken the first very visible step to that return. So all of that pleases us a great deal."

Media limited

No reporters were allowed in the room to ask Woods questions. To protest the tight restrictions, the Golf Writers Association of America did not attend the announcement.

GWAA president Vartan Kupelian said ahead of the event that Woods' decision to limit reporters' ability to listen and ask questions went against everything journalists believe.

The 34-year-old Woods said he understood that many people have questions for him.

"I understand people want to know if Elin and I will stay together. Please know that as far as I'm concerned, every one of these questions and answers is a matter between Elin and me," he asserted.

He defended his wife and reiterated his denial that there had been physical violence between him and his wife as well as reports that his wife attacked him Thanksgiving night.

"Elin has never hit me. There has never been an incident of domestic violence in our marriage ever," he insisted.

Woods hinted that his fall from grace had spurred him to re-explore his faith in Buddhism.

"Buddhism teaches that a craving for things outside ourselves causes an unhappy pointless search for security," Woods said, adding he had drifted from his faith in recent years.

"It teaches me to stop following every impulse and to learn restraint. Obviously, I lost track of what I was taught."

Woods ended his statement by asking forgiveness from those who once trusted him.

"There are many people in this room and many people at home who believed in me. Today, I want to ask for your help. I ask you to find room in your heart to one day believe in me again. Thank-you," he said, before leaving the podium and hugging his mother.

Woods' squeaky-clean image was badly tarnished when he had a late-night fender-bender outside of his Florida home in the early morning hours of Nov. 27. That came just days after the National Enquirer published a story alleging the married golfer was having an affair with a nightclub hostess.

News reports in the days and weeks following suggested Woods' wife had read text messages between her husband and the hostess on his cellphone and chased him from their home wielding a golf club.

After the accident, numerous women came forward to claim they, too, had affairs with Woods, and some offered salacious text and voice mail messages as proof.

On Dec. 2, Woods posted a statement to his website in which he apologized to his family for "transgressions," but did not directly address allegations he had been involved in extramarital affairs. A few days later, he issued a second statement to say, "It may not be possible to repair the damage I've done, but I want to do my best to try."

Woods and his wife have two young children: daughter Sam, 2, and son Charlie, 1.