Golf superstar Tiger Woods was charged with driving under the influence by police in Florida on Monday, dealing a fresh blow to the former world number one as he struggles to resurrect his career.
The 14-time major champion blamed his arrest on a reaction to a mixture of prescription medication he has been taking, insisting in an apology to fans that alcohol was not involved in the incident.
Woods, 41, was arrested by police near his home in Jupiter, Florida, around 3:00 am (0700 GMT) before his release later Monday after being charged with driving under the influence.
A police mugshot of Woods looking bleary-eyed and unshaven rapidly went viral, underscoring the protracted fall from grace which has befallen the superstar athlete once renowned as a clean-living, corporate pitchman.
“I understand the severity of what I did and I take full responsibility for my actions,” Woods said in a statement quoted by US media outlets, which stressed that “alcohol was not involved.”
“What happened was an unexpected reaction to prescribed medications. I didn’t realize the mix of medications had affected me so strongly,” Woods said.
“I would like to apologize with all my heart to my family, friends and the fans. I expect more from myself too.”
The TMZ.com entertainment news website had earlier cited law enforcement sources as saying that Woods was stopped after being spotted “driving erratically, all over the road.” The website said the golfer refused to blow into a breathalyzer.
The arrest is the latest gloomy episode to hit Woods, who once towered over his sport before being engulfed by turmoil in his private life and a series of debilitating injuries.
Woods hasn’t played competitive golf since pulling out of the Dubai Desert Classic in February after one round because of back pain.
He had spinal fusion surgery on April 20 — his fourth surgery in three years to treat his troublesome back which has limited him to three tournament starts worldwide in the past two years.
– Personal life torment –
Woods wrote on his website last week that since his latest procedure he was feeling better than he had in years and remained committed to returning to competitive golf.
“My surgeon and physiotherapist say the operation was successful. It’s just a matter of not screwing up and letting it fuse,” Woods wrote.
“I’m walking and doing my exercises, and taking my kids to and from school. All I can do is take it day by day. There’s no hurry. But, I want to say unequivocally, I want to play professional golf again.”
Woods made his comeback in December after missing all of the 2015-16 season.
But his return quickly ran aground as he withdrew from the PGA Tour event in Los Angeles in February, the Honda Classic and the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March.
He even cancelled a planned press conference at the Los Angeles tournament saying doctors had advised him to “limit all activities”.
He pulled out of the Masters in early April, missing the first major of the year on the 20th anniversary of his epic 1997 victory at Augusta National that marked his first major title and signalled a new era in the game.
Woods, once widely expected to surpass Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 major championships, hasn’t won a grand slam title since the 2008 US Open at Torrey Pines.
Injuries haven’t been the only disruptions to his on-course career.
In November of 2009 a car accident outside his Florida home led to revelations of a series of infidelities that wrecked his marriage. He later went to rehabilitation after the accident, reportedly for sex addiction.
Amid the lurid tabloid headlines, Woods took a break from professional golf that lasted until the 2010 Masters.
Woods chances of overhauling Nicklaus’s tally of 18 majors look remote. He has not featured in a major since the 2015 PGA Championship, when he missed the cut. He also missed the cut in that year’s British and US Opens.