And then, according to reports, golf’s No.1 attraction will disappear again.

Woods will return to sex-addiction therapy after making his statement, the Associated Press reported Thursday night, citing a letter it obtained that PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem sent to the tour’s policy board.

The letter explains that Woods’ appearance couldn’t wait until a non-tournament day because he’s on a short break in his rehab therapy.

It also would explain a pair of cryptic comments made by Finchem and Mark Steinberg, Woods’ agent, as word of the apology session began to spread.

Steinberg told Golfweek magazine on Thursday that there was no intention to upstage the Match Play Championship in Arizona, but “there is a very good reason (to do it Friday) … and not do it next week.”

Meanwhile, when asked by reporters at the Match Play about a possible Woods return, Finchem replied, “I don’t know what he’s going to do after he finishes his rehab.”

Few mea culpas have been so highly anticipated — Bill Clinton, perhaps, or Ben Johnson when dragged before a Canadian drug inquiry 10 months after being stripped of his Olympic gold medal.

But Johnson — or Mark McGwire or Alex Rodriguez or Marion Jones — didn’t prompt ABC, CBS and NBC to carry their statements live. ESPN too. Golf Channel will not only carry the live feed but also will lead in with a 30-minute preview.

“It’s an interesting platform,” said Lori Booker, president of Orlando’s CBR Public Relations, a specialist in steering corporations through sticky headlines.

Woods does plan an apology — the two-paragraph statement alerting the world to Friday’s gathering specifies as much. Other than that, the announcement prompts more questions than answers.

How much insight, if any, will he give to the extramarital activities that sent the tabloids scurrying to link him to more than a dozen women? What about his reported recent treatment for sex addiction at a Mississippi clinic? Will Elin Woods be in attendance? And if so, in what capacity? Could a divorce announcement be in the offering?

Is Woods ready to resume his competitive career, and where? Reports have said the made-for-TV Tavistock Cup could be Woods’ target, though there has been no confirmation.

“I don’t know what decisions he has to make,” Finchem said before heading home from the Match Play. “In a vacuum we’d like him back as soon as possible — but we want him back when he’s dealt with the issues he felt like he had to deal with.”

Woods has not been seen since the Nov. 27 car accident that began his spiral and has issued just three statements via his Web site as the romantic allegations mounted. The last one, on Dec. 11, announced he would take an extended leave of absence from competitive golf to sort out his personal life.

Booker expects Woods’ apology will follow the “classic” three-step pattern used by many celebrities: First, acknowledge the past and look toward the future. Second, discuss the future in greater detail. Finally, talk only about what’s ahead and refuse to discuss the past anymore.

“It’s the beginning of a fresh start,” Booker said, “realizing there can’t really be a fresh start because he’s such a public figure.”

On Thursday, the frenzy began to descend on Ponte Vedra Beach, where the TPC Sawgrass serves as the PGA Tour’s headquarters. According to observers, TMZ.com and “Entertainment Tonight” had reporters in place, and security had been beefed up around the TPC’s clubhouse.

Woods is striving to keep some control. Plans called for only six reporters to be in the room — three news agencies and three pool reporters appointed by the Golf Writers Association of America. Woods will not take questions.

The ones that have drawn the line and set boundaries move on faster,” Booker said. “He’s saying (the in-person audience) are the only people he will answer to. The rest can watch, but only because he knows they have a responsibility to the public.”

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