Woods faces the music at Masters
Tiger acknowledges fans at Augusta with a nod, smile
Reporters didn't pull many punches during Tiger Woods's first press conference since his personal scandal rocked the sporting world, and for the most part, he answered their questions — though he didn't go into specifics on the nature of the problems he faced.
What the No. 1 golfer did admit, when asked repeatedly, was that his behaviour was wrong and he feels like he's on the path to recovery.
"Unfortunately what I've done over the past few years has been just terrible to my family," he said at the Augusta, Ga., press conference. "The fact that I've won golf tournaments is irrelevant."
Woods's dramatic fall from grace in the public eye has been well-documented. It all began to unravel for arguably the world's most recognizable athlete on Nov. 27, when he slammed his Cadillac Escalade into a tree outside his home in Windermere, Fla.
Next came the revelations about his personal life, that the father of two children had repeatedly cheated on his wife with multiple women. Woods went into self-imposed exile, attending rehab for "45 days," he said Monday.
"It was to take a hard look at myself, and I did," he said. "I've come out a much better person for it, [but] I still have to continue with my treatment.
"I missed my son's first birthday [because I was in rehab] and that hurts, it hurts a lot," he said. "That was very hard … and something I regret and probably will for the rest of my life."
Thought to be the world's richest athlete before the scandal, Woods lost endorsements with Gatorade, AT&T and Accenture after it hit.
He emerged on Feb. 19 to issue a statement in front of cameras and a small, handpicked audience, and performed two five-minute TV interviews with ESPN and the Golf Channel two weeks ago, before facing the media free-for-all on Monday before the Masters.
Upbeat when he entered the conference room, Woods seemed to be at ease during the jam-packed session, buoyed by the reception he had from the fans when he played his practice round earlier in the day.
"Coming into today, I didn't know what to expect," he said. "The galleries couldn't have been nicer. It blew me away. Today was just something that touched my heart pretty good."
He made a conscious effort to acknowledge fans during the round, and even signed autographs — something he hardly did before the scandal.
"[I want to] try to be more respectful of the game, acknowledge the fans, and show my appreciation for them," he said. "I haven't done that for the past few years, and that was wrong of me."
Woods also apologized to his fellow players for having to undergo the constant Tiger-related questions in the past few months, and said he was moved by the warm welcome he got from them on Monday.
"Everyone's been great," he said. "It's amazing how many hugs I've gotten from the guys [and] it's only Monday. I'm actually surprised by that."
Evasive about personal life
Woods became evasive at three points during the conference that lasted about 40 minutes, regarding specifics about his transgressions and his family life. A reporter asked what sort of rehab clinic Woods was at, and he said "That's personal. Thank you."
When asked if he was on painkillers when he crashed his Escalade back in November, he said it was "a closed case."
Then came the topic of whether his wife, Elin Nordegren, would be attending. Woods said she wasn't, and wouldn't directly answer any more questions on the subject.
What Woods did answer was whether or not he felt he had a chance to win.
"Nothing's changed. I'm going to go out there and try to win this thing," he said.
Even though Woods hasn't played a competitive round of golf since Nov. 15, the bookies are still betting on Tiger. Woods is a 4 to 1 favourite to win his fifth green jacket when the Masters begins on Thursday.