April 6, 2010 -- It appeared to be a different Tiger Woods who was on display yesterday when he practiced on the golf course and took questions from reporters ahead of this week's Masters Tournament.
The new Woods smiled on the course, waved to fans while practicing and took his time answering reporters' questions.
"He was more human I think than we have seen him ever, certainly at the Masters," USA Today sports columnist Christine Brennan said. "The things that Tiger admitted to, the things he said, the things he was sorry about, those are words we have never heard Tiger say a few years ago or even a few months ago."
The news conference, held at the Augusta, Ga., club, was Woods' first extended question and answer session with reporters since a sex scandal derailed his career nearly five months ago.
"I made a conscious decision to try and tone down my negative outbursts and consequently I'm sure my positive outbursts will be calmed down, as well… Just trying to be more respectful of the game and acknowledge the fans like I did today," Woods told reporters Monday.
Acknowledging the fans is a change for Woods, Brennan said, because he usually doesn't pay much attention to the gallery.
"It will be interesting to watch the next couple of days when he plays if that affects him. That is not what Tiger normally does, being nice to the gallery. He normally is so focused, so let's look for that concentration and see how it impacts his play on the course," Brennan said on "Good Morning America" today.
In a reference to his aloof treatment of his fans over the years, Woods said, "That was wrong of me."
Woods told reporters he did not know what to expect coming into the tournament, but was pleasantly surprised by his reception.
"What a great day today," Woods told a hand-picked room of reporters. "Coming in today I didn't know what to expect. The galleries couldn't be nicer. The encouragement that I got, blew me away to be honest with you."
Questions for Tiger Woods Still Remain
He said he was surprised too by the reception he received from other golfers, saying that many of them gave him hugs.
"Now we find this new softer, huggable Tiger Woods, I never thought I would see players hug Tiger Woods, usually they run from him," Rick Reilly, a senior writer for ESPN's Web site, said. "He is about as huggable as a porcupine, or used to be."
Although Reilly and Brennan agreed that Woods was more open with reporters than he has been in the past, Woods still has questions to answer.
"Why were you in therapy? For what? For sex? For drug abuse? What was it? We were so close on [finding out ] why that night did the wife go back in the house and get Ambien and Vicodin and show it to the police," Reilly said. "And then when we asked him he kind of gave an evasive answer. He didn't say why, four years after his dad's death, which was his reason for taking Ambien, he was still taking it."
Woods admitted using the sleep drug Ambien in the past and denied he was in rehab for drug use. He added that he had never used illegal drugs.
Regardless of how the past five months has unfolded for the famous golfer, Woods said "nothing's changed" and he still expects to win the Masters that begins on Thursday. Woods has already won four Masters Tournaments.
"I am so ready to watch the guy play golf, that is how we all know him," Reilly said on "Good Morning America."
The world's No.1 golfer said he had made some "incredibly bad decisions" but through therapy and Buddhist meditation was now "at peace" and could play the game the way he did early in his career before he became entrapped in fame and what he described as self-deceit.
Woods would not specify what he is in therapy for, calling it personal.
He also denied receiving performance-enhancing drugs for Dr. Anthony Galea, a doctor who is being investigated for distributing illegal drugs to athletes. Woods said he had received treatments for his knee from the doctor.
Elin Nordegren, Tiger Woods' Wife, Will Not Attend Tournament
Woods again apologized to his mother, children and wife, Elin Nordregren. Nordegren, he said, would not be attending the tournament.
He said he realized how much damage his philandering had done to his family soon after Christmas when he entered therapy and missed his son Charlie's first birthday.
"I missed my son's first birthday and that hurts. It hurts a lot. I vowed I'd never miss another one after that. I want to be a part of my son's life going forward. It is something I regret and probably will for the rest of my life," Woods said.
And despite a five-month thrashing from the press, Woods acted like the press, with whom he has long had a chilly relationship, were his old pals. He said many of the reporters in the room he considered to be his friends, calling on them by their first names and referring to one as "bro."
Meanwhile, one of Woods' mistresses, Joselyn James, a former porn star who carried on a three-year relationship and has repeatedly called for a public apology from the golfer, was to hold her own press conference in New York.
James called the golfer a "big fat liar" and shot down Woods' public promise to better himself as "big malarky." "After the birth of his first daughter Sam, he was with me 10 days later," she said.