Tiger Says He's Coming Back To Win At Augusta

Tiger Woods spoke to the media Monday for the first time since his hiatus from golf amid revelations of adultery. He repeated his apologies to his family, friends and fellow golfers, and said he's playing to win at Augusta.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And now back to golf. Thats most likely what Tiger Woods wants to do after yesterday's press conference at the Masters Tournament. Tiger Woods had avoided an open question-and-answer session since the scandal in his personal life broke late last year.

From Augusta, Georgia, NPR's Tom Goldman reports.

TOM GOLDMAN: It was built up as judgment day. The world's press - or at least the 200 or so reporters who could get a ticket for the interview session - finally would have their moment: who, what, why and more, with Tiger Woods.

In a move that would have made a cornered politician proud, Woods walked right by the TV cameramen waiting outside the media building near the back entrance players normally use. He walked through the front doors, and acknowledged a few reporters as he moved through the crowd toward the dais.

Mr. WOODS: (Unintelligible).

GOLDMAN: Woods took his spot behind a microphone. The only sign of menace was his early growth of a goatee. His tone was friendly and relaxed, even when a couple of questions probed the mysterious November car crash outside his Florida home that ignited the scandal. Why was he taken to the hospital?

Mr. WOODS: I had a busted-up lip and a pretty sore neck, and that was it.

GOLDMAN: Was his use of the prescription sleeping medicine Ambien involved in the crash? A hospital report said he was admitted as a possible overdose.

Mr. WOODS: Well, the police investigated the accident, and they cited me 166 bucks. And it's a closed case.

GOLDMAN: Closed case applied to several of the subjects discussed worldwide for the past few months. Not once yesterday did anyone utter the words sex or affairs. There were no questions about an alleged payoff to one of his mistresses, no in-depth questioning of whether his inner circle knew about his behavior, something he's steadfastly denied.

There were questions about his relationship with a controversial Canadian doctor who's been linked to banned performance-enhancing drugs, or PEDs. Woods acknowledged he has used Dr. Anthony Galea, but only for legal therapy on his ailing knee.

Mr. WOODS: He did come to my house. He never gave me HGH or any PEDs. I've never taken that my entire life. I've never taken any illegal drug, ever.

GOLDMAN: Woods was most expansive on the subject of his own failing. Interestingly, he seemed - as he has in other public comments on the scandal - at ease talking about his lying and deceiving and resultant therapy, albeit without detail.

Mr. WOODS: I acted just terribly, poorly, made just incredibly bad decisions, and decisions that have hurt so many people close to me.

(Soundbite of cheering)

Unidentified Man: Let's go, Tiger.

(Soundbite of applause)

GOLDMAN: Hours before he sat down in the interview room, Woods passed what he later said was his toughest test of the day: his first round back in front of golf fans. He made the decision to return to competitive golf at Augusta because of the potential for a soft landing. Indeed, walking the course yesterday during his practice round, Woods could've been walking on a pillow.

The gallery that followed him numbered in the thousands, and offered nothing but support. Augusta is a place of rules and good behavior - or else. One security guard who mingled in the Tiger crowd the entire round said there were no problems. No one, the guard said, had to be pulled aside, given a lecture and a punch hole in their ticket. Two punch holes, and you're out.

Jim Thornton of Tampa, Florida, wasn't surprised by the reception. But Thornton, an admitted fan of Tiger Woods the golfer, felt the cheering, at times, was hypocritical.

Mr. JIM THORNTON: I just think some of these people are just kind of like, oh God, I hate what he did - go Tiger! You know what I'm saying?

GOLDMAN: Woods liked what he heard. He smiled and waved, even signed some autographs. He admits the new nice-guy policy may fade a bit come Thursday's first round of the Masters because amidst all the change he says he's undergoing - the self exploration and recommitment to core values - one thing won't change: trying to go out there and win a golf tournament.

Tom Goldman, NPR News, Augusta.

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