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Gallacher rounds on 'sycophants' in Woods entourage

Tiger Woods was back in seclusion on Sunday, leaving the golf world to deal with the ripples left in the wake of his brief return to the public eye two days earlier.

The 34-year-old superstar emerged from self-imposed isolation on Friday and didn't spare himself as he said a skewed sense of entitlement led him to indulge in extramarital affairs that have jeopardized his marriage, shredded his personal reputation and put his extraordinary career in limbo.

Woods said he was heading back to therapy, where he had already spent 45 days receiving in-patient treatment, and gave no timetable for his eventual return to golf.

But the reaction to his remarks, which lasted little more than 13 minutes, showed just how much sway he still holds.

Former European Ryder Cup captain Bernard Gallacher, speaking to BBC radio, was strongly critical of the Woods entourage for allowing him to break his three-month silence during the Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona, the biggest event of the golfing year so far.

"He's got those sycophants around him but he's also got lawyers and PR people and he needs to kick them into touch," Gallacher said.

"This is someone humbled, very remorseful, a shadow of his former self - a broken man.

"He has been badly handled by his management. Badly mentored. It was the wrong timing on Friday to do it during Accenture week. It was almost a cynical attempt to undermine the tournament."

Similar concerns had been voiced by players at the tournament when Woods' camp announced Wednesday that Woods would speak at the PGA Tour headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

Some suggested the timing was a poke at Accenture, the consulting firm that was one of the first to sever ties with Woods when scandal hit.

US PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said Suday he regretted his failure to brief players so they wouldn't feel blindsided by questions about Woods.

He said he could have explained to them that the reason Woods chose Friday was that he was due back in treatment at the weekend.

"In hindsight, we should have pushed the the thing along in a way that got the players briefed before they went into their Wednesday matches ... so they're not coming out of a match an getting hit with all these Tiger questions," said Finchem, who left the tournament in Tucson to attend Woods' address then returned to Arizona for the weekend.

"You can never communicate too much in this business and when you don't, you usually pay a price and that was a good example."

Finchem reiterated that he has no idea when Woods will return to competition, but said the world's number one player could do so whenever he chooses.

He said the PGA Tour had not suspended Woods, a punishment that could conceivably have been meted out for conduct unbecoming a professional.

Ever since Woods announced via his website on December 11 that he was taking an "indefinite break" from golf, speculation has swirled over the future of the man who has been linked to affairs with 14 women.

An appearance at the first major of the year, the Masters at Augusta National in April, now appears to to be in doubt.

"He may not come back to golf," Gallacher told BBC radio, although Finchem seemed confident the player who has become the face of the game worldwide would return.

"Based on what he said on the non-competitive side, he's got to continue to go through this process that he's going through," Finchem said.

"On the competitive side, we all know that he's not going to tee it up until he feels like he's going to win the golf tournament.

"I don't think he knows himself the answers to those questions." Finchem again addressed predictions that Woods, who has become the butt of TV and internet comedians, could be in for raucous receptions from fans when he does return.

"In terms of acceptable (fan) behavior, we want to maintain the atmosphere that we have to to play golf," Finchem said, noting that some tournaments, such as the Phoenix Open, already have a reptutation for rowdy fans by golf standards.

"We just have to see how that unfolds and deal with things as they pop up," he said.

LOS ANGELES, Monday (AFP)

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