R WOODS last night apologised to his fellow professionals in a heart-warming first press conference since his self-imposed exile from the game amid lurid revelations about his private life.
The world No1 told how he had been “blown away” by the reception of the crowd after walking out on the Augusta course for a practice round yesterday in pursuit of a fifth US Masters title.
He then sat down with reporters to address a number of issues in an honest and frank 35-minute interview, which he began with a heartfelt apology to his fellow peers.
“I’d like to tell all the players after today hopefully they can be left alone to focus on the Masters and their game for this week and going forward,” he said. “I apologise to all of them for having to endure what they’ve had to endure over the last few months.
“A lot has happened in the past five months, I’m here to play and compete and really excited about doing that. I missed the competition.”
Woods then went on to insist he had never used human growth hormone during his recovery despite being treated for an Achilles tendon injury by controversial Canadian physician Dr Anthony Galea, who is currently under federal investigation in a drugs case.
“He [Galea] did come to my house, he never gave me HGH or any PED’s [performance enhancing drugs]. I had PRP [platelet rich plasma] treatment,” he admitted. “I’ve never taken that my entire life. I’ve never taken any illegal drug, ever, for that matter.”
Woods has not played competitively since the Australian Masters last November and told of his personal anguish during his time away from the course, which included a 45-day stint in therapy for a condition he refused to specify.
“I missed my son’s first birthday and that hurts a lot,” said Woods, who admitted his wife Elin will not be at Augusta this week. “That was very bad, that day. That was something I regret and probably will for the rest of my life. I hurt so many people close to me and I lied to myself – it’s pretty brutal. I take full responsibility for what I have done.”
Asked if he would continue to undergo the therapy, he added: “Will I stop? No, I will continue with my treatment. That’s not going to stop in the near future. I’ve come out a better person for it than when I went in. I did it to take a hard look at myself and that is what I did.”
But despite his time away from the course, Woods admits his expectation for success remains as high as ever.
“Nothing’s changed, I will try and go out there and win this thing,” he added.