April 5, 2010— -- Tiger Woods said he didn't know what to expect when he returned to the golf course, but today said he was "blown away" by the warm reception he received from fans today while practicing at Augusta National ahead of this week's Masters Tournament.
"What a great day today," Woods told a hand-picked room of reporters at the storied August, Ga. club. "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."
"It touched my heart," he added.
The news conference was Woods' first extended question and answer session with reporters since a sex scandal derailed his career nearly five months ago.
Following 45 days of therapy, presumably for sex addiction, a relaxed and sometime joking Woods said his attitude both on and off the course had change following a now infamous Thanksgiving night car crash that set off an avalanche of allegations about sexual infidelity.
"I'm going to try and not get as hot when I play," he said. "When I'm not as hot, I'm not as exuberant either. I can't play one without the other? I've made a conscious decision to tone done the negative outbursts," the golfer told a room of hand-picked reporters.
Of that fateful accident, Woods said when he was taken to the hospital he received five stitches in his mouth. 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 any illegal drugs.
He said "nothing's changed" and he still expects to win the Masters that begins on Thursday. Woods has already won four Masters Tournaments.
In other ways, however, he was a more humble golfer. He said the reception he had received from fans made him realize that he needed to return the appreciation, and pledged to better acknowledge his supporters moving forward.
"So many fans supported me over the years. I want to say thank you to them. The past few months have put things in perspective… How much I underappreciated the fans," he said.
In a reference to his aloof treatment of his fans over the years, he said, "That was wrong of me."
Tiger Woods Says Wife Elin Will Not Be at Masters
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.
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," Wood said.
He said he surprised too by the reception he received from other golfers.
"It's amazing how many hugs I've gotten from the guys," he said with a grin.
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 to address rumors of whether she will boycott at Augusta.
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.