During a press conference held on Monday, scandal-hit golfer Tiger Woods said he was blown away by the reception he received from fans at Augusta National ahead of his highly anticipated return to competition at this week's US Masters.
AFP - Tiger Woods took his first steps down the road to redemption on Monday at the Masters, answering questions from reporters and playing his first public round of golf in nearly five months.
Ending a layoff in the wake of a sex scandal that tore apart his life and shut down his career, golf's number one player humbled himself over missing his son's first birthday and denied ever taking performance-enhancing drugs.
For the first time in a very long while, Woods said he simply went out Monday and played golf and had fun doing so, giving him renewed vigor to end his five-month competitive drought in Thursday's first round of the Masters.
"I'm looking forward to the first tee and teeing off. I haven't looked forward to that first shot in a long time," Woods said.
Woods laughed with playing partner Fred Couples and joked with spectators that were generally supportive during a practice round early Monday, as the star clearly enjoyed his return after hiding a secret sex life for years.
"You're living a life where you are lying all the time," Woods explained. "I wasn't having any fun. Now I have stopped all that and it's fun again."
But the 14-time major champion said his dream of breaking the all-time record 18 majors won by Jack Nicklaus paled in comparison when he remembered how much he had hurt his family.
"The fact I won golf tournaments is irrelevant," Woods said of his success while leading a double life. "Winning golf tournaments is unimportant compared to all the damage I've done."
But that doesn't mean Woods is any less committed to trying to win a fifth Masters crown this weekend.
"Nothing has changed," Woods said. "I'm going to try to go out there and win this week.
"The fact I haven't played at all is a bit disconcerting."
Woods evaded the question when asked details of how he kept secret his cheating on wife Elin, who will not be attending the Masters.
"I hurt so many people close to me. I lied to myself," Woods said. "It's pretty brutal. I take full responsibility for what I have done."
That included missing son Charlie's first birthday to complete 45 days of treatment for a condition he would not specify, reportedly sex addiction.
"I missed my son's first birthday. That hurts a lot. I can't go back to where I was," Woods said. "That was very bad, that day. That was something I regret and probably will for the rest of my life."
Woods said he is not addicted to any medication and has never taken human growth hormone or any other illegal drugs, a reference to his role as a possible witness in an inquiry to a Canadian doctor linked to possible doping.
And he thanked his fans for an "incredible reception" on Monday, admitting having failed to appreciate their support in the past as he looked to bounce back from the scandal.
"So many kids have looked up to me, and so many fans have supported me over the years and I just want to say thank you to them," he said.
"Especially going through all of this, over the past few months, it really put things into perspective for me, and into how much I have appreciated or actually underappreciated the fans in the game of golf."
Date created : 2010-04-05