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Transcript of Tiger Woods news conference

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Woods 'much better person' after rehab
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Tiger Woods takes questions ahead of Masters Tournament
  • Golfer addresses personal struggles, time in rehab
  • He says fans' support has meant a lot

(CNN) -- Golfer Tiger Woods spoke to the media and took questions Monday at the Augusta National Golf Club as he prepares to return to golf at the Masters Tournament this week. In his first news conference since scandal broke, Woods said the six weeks he spent in rehab changed him.

The following is the full transcript.

TIGER WOODS: Well, today I got a chance to play with Craig there -- I'm sorry -- Craig -- Freddie. And then Jim joined us on the 13th hole. And it was -- just, what a great day today.

Coming into today, I didn't know what to respect with regards to reception. And I'll tell you what, the galleries couldn't be nicer. I mean, it was just incredible.

And the encouragement that I got, and -- it was just -- it blew me away, to be honest with you. It really did.

And, you know, the people here over the years have been extremely respectful. But today was just something that really touched my heart pretty good.

I would also like to, I guess, make another little comment before we start.

I know that the players over the past few months have been bombarded by questions by all of you and the public, as well. And I would like to tell all the players, hopefully, after today, after answering questions at this press conference, that the players can be left alone to focus on the Masters and focus on their game. Not only for this week, but going forward, as well. And I certainly apologize to all of them for having to endure what they've had to endure over the past few months.

A lot has happened in my life over the past five months. And I'm here at the Masters to play and compete. And just really excited about doing that.

And I missed the competition; I missed seeing the guys out here. A lot of my friends I haven't seen in a while.

It was great to play golf with Freddie and Jim, two of my best friends out here. And I played with Mark yesterday for nine holes, and I'm playing with him again tomorrow, as well as Steve Stricker. So it's been just an incredible experience so far here at the Masters.

CRAIG HEATLEY, CHAIRMAN, MASTERS MEDIA COMMITTEE: Doug.

QUESTION: Tiger, you said in some recent TV interviews that everything was in the police report, but the police report didn't contain what was it about the injuries that sent you to the hospital.

Can you tell us what those were?

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

QUESTION: And secondly, in the --

WOODS: It required five stitches in my lip.

QUESTION: In the five weeks from the accident, until you went into therapy, why didn't you speak to the police or any of your corporate sponsors, any of the media that have covered you year-round?

WOODS: Well, I did everything to the letter of the law. My lawyer said -- gave me the advice, and I followed that advice. And I -- again, I did everything to the letter of the law.

I did talk to my sponsors and people who I was close to, and the various companies. And -- but mainly I spent a lot of time with my family.

HEATLEY: Bob.

QUESTION: Tiger, what's been the most difficult thing for you to deal with these past few months? And how have you dealt with it?

WOODS: Well, probably two things.

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I think one, being having to look at myself in a light that I never wanted to look at myself. That was difficult. How far astray I got from my core fundamentals and core morals that my mom and dad taught me. And having to break all that down and, as I said in the interview, with all the denial and rationalization, to cut through that and really take a hard look at myself. And that's when I started finding strength and peace.

And the other is -- the other difficult part, I think, over the past few months has just been the constant harassment to my family, my wife and kids being photographed everywhere they go, being badgered. And that's tough. That's tough on them, because it's really hard for us to heal as -- and then try and get through this as best we can.

HEATLEY: Scott.

QUESTION: Tiger, you said in February that when you returned to the game, that you were going to -- wanted to show more respect for the game.

In what way are we going to see sort of differences out there between the ropes and outside the ropes?

WOODS: Yes, great question.

I am actually going to try and obviously not get as hot when I play. But then again, when I -- not as hot, I'm not going to be as exuberant, either.

You're not going to see -- I can't play one without the other. And so I've made a conscious decision to try and tone down my negative outbursts. And consequently, I'm sure that my positive outbursts will be calmed down, as well.

And that's -- just trying to be more respectful of the game, and acknowledge the fans, like I did today. That was just an incredible reception all day for all 18 holes. And show, you know, my appreciation for them.

I haven't done that in the past few years, and that was wrong of me. So many kids have looked up to me, and so many fans have supported me over the years, and I just want to say thank you to them. Especially going through all of this, over the past few months, it really put things into perspective for me, and into how much I -- you know, I have appreciated or actually underappreciated the fans in the game of golf.

HEATLEY: Robert.

QUESTION: Tiger, you know, you won a lot of golf tournaments over the last five years living a completely secret life. How were you able to do that?

And then, secondly, do you feel -- what kind of golfer do you feel you'll be now, going forward, without having this secret?

WOODS: Well, I think it's how I was early in my career. You know, I was at peace. And I've had had some great years.

And unfortunately, what I've done over the past years has been, you know, just terrible to my family. And the fact I won golf tournaments I think is irrelevant. It's the pain and the damage that I've caused.

You know, my wife, my mom, my wife's family, my kids, going forward, are going to have to -- I'm going have to explain all this to them. And, you know, that's my responsibility.

I did it, and I take full responsibility for it. And as I said, winning golf tournaments, I think through all of this, is irrelevant compared to all the damage I've caused.

HEATLEY: Christine.

QUESTION: Yes, Tiger, you've been known as a great proponent of drug testing on the PGA Tour. As you probably know, Dr. Anthony Galea was arrested for performance-enhancing drugs in his possession. And as you also probably know, Dr. Galea has said he's been to your home at least four times.

Why did you feel, Tiger, it was necessary to have this particular doctor come to your home? And what did he specifically do for you?

WOODS: Well, Christine, 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, for that matter

I had PRP, platelet-rich plasma, treatments. And basically, what that is, is they draw blood from your arm, spin it in a centrifuge, and take the plasma out and insert it into the injuries.

Well, as you all know, in 2008, I blew out my ACL. And part of my reconstruction of my LCL wasn't reacting properly. It was a little bit stuck, and so I had the PRP injection into my LCL.

And then, in December, I started to train, started running again, and I tore my Achilles on my right leg. And I then had PRP injections throughout the year. I kept re-tearing it throughout the year and throughout the summer.

I used tape most of the year to play. And so -- I also went into hyperbaric chambers after the injections to help drive in -- it does help you heal faster. And did everything I possibly could to heal faster so I could get back on the golf course, you know, through the PRP injections.

HEATLEY: Steve.

QUESTION: What were you hoping today to be like for you? And how nervous are you sitting here?

WOODS: Sitting here, not that nervous, no. As far as getting out there, I was definitely more nervous.

That first tee, I didn't know what to expect. I really didn't, Steve. It's one of those things where I've never been in this position before, to be out there and in front of the people where I have -- I've done some things that are just, you know, horrible.

And, you know, for the fans to really want to see me play golf again, that felt great. That really did.

You know, usually I kind of focus on, you know, placements of shots and getting ready, but today was a little bit different. I kind of took it in a little bit more. Sort of more than I think I have in a long time. And it felt really good.

QUESTION: You touched on it with Scott a little bit, usually you have tunnel vision. Saw you out there today engaging with the fans.

Will you be able to keep your competitive edge as high as it was, and also be able to be more engaging with the fans?

WOODS: Well, I think come game time, it might be a little bit different. I'm going to try and obviously get the ball in the holes as best I can. But in the practice rounds, I think just acknowledging the fans and their support for me, especially what has transpired in my life, for them to still cheer for me is just incredible. It really is.

HEATLEY: Tom.

QUESTION: Tiger, you and the rest of us discovered a lot of media we didn't know existed until the accident. I just wonder your response to the mainstream media, which was a lot more critical, obviously, than it had been.

Were you surprised in how nicely the group in here treated you, the golf writers, normal sportswriters, or did you sort of expect that?

WOODS: Well, I was surprised at mainstream media. I mean, I think it's also the times have changed, as well.

You know, it's -- with 24-hour news, it's -- you're looking for any kind of news to get out there. And I know a lot of my friends are in here, and you know, I haven't seen them, I haven't talked to them, but I've read their articles. And of course they're being critical of me.

They should, because, you know, what I have done was wrong. But then again, I know a lot of them -- a lot of you in here are my friends and will always be my friends.

HEATLEY: Alex.

QUESTION: Tiger, it's been reported that you took prescription drugs, Ambien and Vicodin. Can you speak to when you started taking those, how you need them for tournament golf, if you did, and if you ever became addicted to either one of them or received treatment?

WOODS: I have taken them, yes. I've had some, as everyone knows, pretty interesting knee situations over the years.

I've had, what, four operations now on my left knee? And last year, with my torn Achilles, it hurt quite a bit at times. And, yes, I did take that.

And I took -- most of the time I was on the Ambien was when my dad was sick. When my dad died, that was a tough time in my life. And, you know, so that's when, yes, I was taking that, some of those things, to help me sleep. And that's about it.

QUESTION: Have you ever received treatment for it?

WOODS: No.

HEATLEY: The gentleman here in the white shirt.

QUESTION: Tiger, how is your knee? And is it still giving you pain on a daily, weekly, monthly basis?

WOODS: My knee feels great. The only time it doesn't feel good is when a front comes through. That's when most people realize that. Arthritis in there, and you get a little older.

But other than that, it feels great. It's strong. It's explosive again, which is great. And now my Achilles is good now. So I'm training like I used to years ago.

HEATLEY: Mark.

QUESTION: Tiger, if I could just follow up on Chris' question.

There are a lot of doctors who do blood-spinning. And what was it that prompted you to go to or have Dr. Galea come and see you?

WOODS: Well, he's worked with so many athletes. And that's also one of the reasons why I went and saw Dr. Wooden for my eyes. He's done a lot of different athletes, and there's a certain comfort level to that, when a person has worked with athletes.

HEATLEY: The gentleman down in the back.

QUESTION: Yes, Tiger, you had said earlier that you were in some form of a rehab. Can you talk about, are you still in rehab, and what that rehab was for?

WOODS: You know, yes, I was in there for 45 days. And it was to take a hard look at myself, and I did. And I've come out better, certainly a much of better person for it than I was going in.

And does that mean I'm ever going to stop doing that? No. I've got to still continue with my treatment, and that's going forward. That's not going to stop in the near future, for sure.

QUESTION: What was it for?

WOODS: That's personal. Thank you.

QUESTION: Tiger, federal investigators have contacted some of the other athletes who have worked with Dr. Galea. Have they contacted you as part of that investigation?

WOODS: Yes, they have actually contacted Steiny. And we'll have full cooperation whenever they need me, but as of right now, they haven't asked, you know, for my time.

HEATLEY: The gentleman in the black shirt.

QUESTION: Tiger, you said in your statement that you felt entitled over the years. How are you able to -- I assume that wasn't the first time you thought that, but how are you able to rationalize that while you were engaging in that behavior and still playing such winning golf?

WOODS: Explain that again?

QUESTION: You said you were entitled, you felt entitled to what you were doing before. And at the same time, I'm wondering how you were able to rationalize that in your mind while it was going on.

WOODS: Well, that's part of, you know, the problem I had, is that, you know, the way I was thinking was not correct. And as part of, you know, where I was at, I was rationalizing, I was denying, in total denial at times.

Whatever I did was -- I lied to myself, I lied to others. And just because I was winning golf tournaments doesn't mean a thing. The way I was thinking caused so much harm with the people that I love and care about the most on this planet.

QUESTION: Did you only realize that after it became public?

WOODS: After I started going to treatment, that's when they started stripping all that away from you.

HEATLEY: The gentleman behind.

QUESTION: Tiger, your behavior, personal life, before Thanksgiving, do you think it negatively impacted your play on the course at all? Could you have been playing better had you had more discipline in your personal life?

WOODS: I would like to say yes. I would be -- certainly would have had -- I would be more centered, more balanced. And that's where I'm headed towards. That's what I'm working towards, each and every day.

I meditate religiously again, like I used to. I've gone back to my roots and Buddhism with my mom.

You know, I need to do these things the way I used to do it. And unfortunately, I got away from that. And I just lost that. And unfortunately, also lost, you know, my life in the process.

HEATLEY: Bob.

QUESTION: Tiger, let's talk about the doctor you've been working with that's been out there for several months. And it led to some assumptions that you just denied, obviously, people writing or speculating that you might have been doing performance-enhancing drugs.

Why not talk about that sooner than now to get that put aside?

And also, you referenced your Achilles. Was that two months before you actually came back to golf last year?

WOODS: OK. Why didn't I come out? Because I haven't done any interviews, first of all. And, you know, when I did, Kelly and Tom, I don't believe, asked me those questions.

But as far as the injury, yes, it was in -- it was a week before the Chevron Tournament. And, yes, so it was a couple months prior.

And it's also one of the reasons why when I did come back and I did start playing, I was hitting the ball so short. I couldn't push off on my right side. And as I said, as I said to Christine, I tore it a couple more times throughout the year and needed the injections to try and heal the wound.

HEATLEY: The gentleman here.

QUESTION: Tiger, when you made that statement in February, you gave the impression that you might not even come back this year, that you might not for a long time. Did you generally believe that at the time? And coming back, is that entirely your decision? Did you do it with the blessing of your family and your wife?

WOODS: Well, when I gave my speech in February, I had no intentions of playing golf in the near future at all. And I just had barely started practicing two days prior to that. That was the first time I hit balls.

And then I started hitting more balls and more balls. And I started getting the itch again to start playing again.

And Hank came down, and we started working again, and that felt great again. It felt like old times. You know?

So much has transpired, it felt like old times to have Hank out there, working on my game, and for hours and hours and hours and hours on end. And that's why I made the decision to come back and play.

And the reason why I didn't come back and play earlier than that, whether it was Tavistock Cup or Bay Hill, is because I wasn't ready for it. I wasn't even near physically ready to play at this level, and I needed more time.

And Hank has come down quite a bit. We've worked quite a bit. We have come up here on two different occasions, the last two Mondays and Tuesdays we have come up here to do some work on the golf course. And here we are.

QUESTION: So was it solely your decision, or was there support from your family for that decision?

WOODS: I've had a lot of support, and that's been the great thing about it.

QUESTION: Tiger, there was a four-week lapse between the accident and when you entered therapy. When did you make that decision, that this was something you were going to have to deal with rather than just push it into the background?

WOODS: Well, probably just prior to Christmas, I made the decision to enter rehab. And having spent Christmas Day with my family was just incredible. And then having to go off from there into treatment, that was a very difficult time, because, you know, what people probably don't realize is that because of the time frame of it, I missed my son's first birthday. And that hurts, and that hurts a lot, and I vowed I would never miss another one after that.

I can't go back to where I was. I want to be a part of my son's life and my daughter's life going forward. And I missed his first birthday.

I mean, that's -- that was very hard that day and something I regret. And I probably will for the rest of my life.

QUESTION: Tiger, will Elin and the kids be joining you this week at the Masters? And if not, is that a sign that she is not ready to support you yet? And should you be making this return to the game?

WOODS: Elin is not coming this week, no.

QUESTION: But should you be returning to the game so soon, with that time spent repairing your relationship?

WOODS: I decided to play this week.

HEATLEY: Anne.

QUESTION: Tiger, will you keep your team, the management team, intact? And how much do they actually know about everything that was going on in your personal life?

WOODS: Yes, I'll certainly have everyone around me. I've lied and deceived a lot of people, and a lot of people didn't know what I was doing, either.

So, you know, I've had just, again, a tremendous amount of support as well from others on the outside, and it's been a difficult time. But also, I'm actually surprised of how much support I've gotten, as well.

HEATLEY: Mac.

QUESTION: Tiger, we've come to know you as a guy that controls things around you pretty tightly around you, whether it's this or everywhere around your life. And with all of the reports that have come out with seemingly a lot of loose ends with the things that you did, whether it be text messages or whatever those things be, it leads to wonder why you would leave so many loose ends. And is there almost some element of you that wanted to get caught?

WOODS: I don't know. All I know is, I acted just terribly, poorly, made just incredibly bad decisions and decisions that I've hurt so many people close to me. And that's enough.

HEATLEY: Tom.

QUESTION: Tiger, how did you fool so many people for so long?

WOODS: You know, Tom, I fooled myself as well. You know, as I said, I lied to a lot of people, deceived a lot of people, kept others in the dark, rationalized. You know, and even lied to myself.

And now that's -- when you strip all that away, you start realizing what -- you know, when I stripped all that away and started realizing what I had done, the full magnitude of it, it's pretty brutal. And I take full responsibility for what I've done. And it's -- and I don't take that lightly.

HEATLEY: John.

QUESTION: Tiger, what does that do to your legacy?

WOODS: Well, you know, my dad -- it's amazing how he says things that comes back. In order to help people, you have to first learn how to help yourself. That's what he always used to say, and I never understood that.

When I was in treatment, I wrote that down, and I looked at it every day. And to learn how to help myself, I can therefore -- I can help more people going forward, infinitely more than I did prior to all this.

HEATLEY: Phillip?

QUESTION: Tiger, in light of the off-course pressure that you've been experiencing, how important is the support you'll have on the first tee when it's just you and your caddie, Steve Williams? And what influence will he have on your four days at the Masters?

WOODS: Well, to have Steve back, it's just -- it's tremendous. And -- it really is.

He's a great friend, always has been and always will be. We are honest with one another, and we've had a long talk. And, you know, it was a great talk, as well. And it's great to have him on the bag.

He's excited to get back and compete again. He's been doing really well racing-wise. He won the New Zealand championships.

But he also -- this is another part of his life that he loves to do. And he loves to be back here at Augusta. And for us to go back out there as a team together, it feels good.

HEATLEY: The gentleman two back.

QUESTION: Tiger, do you feel the same way about your pursuit of Jack Nicklaus' record about winning golf tournaments, or does that have to take a different perspective now considering what happened on November 26th?

WOODS: You know, when I -- when I had -- when I went through that period when my father was sick and my father passed away, it put things in perspective real quick. And when my kids were born, again, it put it in perspective. And then what I've done here, it puts it in perspective.

It's that it's not about the championships. It's about how you live your life.

And I hadn't done that the right way for a while, and I needed to change that. And going forward, I need to be a better man going forward than I was before. And just because I've gone through treatment doesn't mean it stops.

I'm trying as hard as I possibly can each and every day to get my life better and better and stronger. And if I win championships along the way, so be it. But along the way, I want to help more people that are -- haven't quite learned how to help themselves, just like how I was.

HEATLEY: Steve.

QUESTION: Tiger, did Ambien play a role in the car crash? You were described by the witnesses as mumbling, snoring. Obviously sockless. And according to a leaked hospital report, were admitted as a possible OD.

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

HEATLEY: Mike.

QUESTION: Tiger, obviously the treatment is about improving yourself, getting back to the Masters and golf. But from Tiger Woods' perspective, you have built an industry around yourself, and a lot of companies got behind you.

When they dropped you -- and some of them pretty quickly, others took a while -- what was your thought about them dropping you? And as you approach (INAUDIBLE) what do you tell those sponsors who may want to support you about why they should get behind you?

WOODS: OK. You want me to answer the first part or second part? That's a long-winded one there, bro.

The first part is, do I understand why they dropped me? Of course.

You know, I made a lot of mistakes in my life, and I totally understand why they would do that.

And then going forward, you know, hopefully I can prove to the other companies going forward that I am a worthy investment. That I can help their company, help their company grow and represent them well. I felt like I was representing companies well in the past, but then again, I wasn't doing it the right way, because of what I was engaged in.

QUESTION: Tiger, golf-wise, what are your expectations this week?

WOODS: Nothing has changed, Salty. I'm going to try to out there and win this thing.

QUESTION: Tiger, I think you would agree that putting has cost you a couple green jackets in recent years. After playing here all these practice rounds, are you more concerned with putting this week, or are there other parts of your game?

WOODS: Well, the fact that I haven't really played at all, you know, that's -- that's a little bit concerning. I -- I'm hoping I get my feel back quickly. You know, feel for the game, feel for shots, feel for how my body is reacting, what my distances are going to be. I hope I get that back relatively quickly. You know, maybe hopefully the first hole. But if not, please hope it's the second hole.

But, you know, that's what I'm looking forward to. I'm looking forward to getting out there and doing that.

QUESTION: I was curious. You were talking about your nerves a little bit. How do you expect that will be Thursday? A little different, obviously, since it matters.

And then, you talk about the fans being so supportive. When you met with your peers, could you tell us who was supportive and how that -- ?

WOODS: The fans were incredible. I'm looking forward to the first tee and teeing off. And you know, that's getting out there and doing what I've done for a very long time. I'm looking forward to that.

As far as my peers, everyone has been great. It's amazing how many hugs I've gotten from the guys. You know, this -- I mean, this is only a Monday. So I've seen the guys here on yesterday and today, and then a couple times that I've been up here prior to this, some of the other players have been up here, I've been up here, as well. And I'm actually surprised by that, how well-received I've been.

QUESTION: Tiger, why did you not feel the need to do what you were doing now a few months ago?

WOODS: Because I was -- what do you mean, a few months ago? When was a few months ago, exactly? Sorry.

QUESTION: This year. January.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: December.

QUESTION: All right, December.

WOODS: Well, which month?

QUESTION: Let's say December.

WOODS: December? Because I wasn't in the right place for it. And in January, I was in rehab.

QUESTION: Tiger, you have talked about the importance of your therapy and the rehab and that process. Was there a time prior to that that you thought you needed therapy? You gave it some consideration of --

WOODS: No.

QUESTION: -- going to rehab, or did you ever try to quit whatever (OFF-MIKE)?

WOODS: No, I was not in that position. I was not in that frame of mind. I was not in a place for -- I hadn't hit far enough on the bottom to make myself look at what I've done and what I was engaged in. And not until then and once that happened, then I went to rehab.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to take three more questions.

QUESTION: Tiger, do you intend to play the in Ryder Cup this year?

WOODS: Well, as of right now, I'm not on the team, am I?

I'm not an a team, point-wise, so I've got a long way to go.

QUESTION: Well, would you like to play in it?

WOODS: Would I like to play in it? If I qualify.

QUESTION: Tiger, after what you've been trough in the last five months, what do you think some of your (OFF-MIKE) are going to be Thursday on that tee and how are you going to deal with those? (OFF-MIKE) come back from a torn ACL?

WOODS: You know, Rosy, that first tee, I'm looking forward to it. I haven't looked forward to that tee shot in a long time, not like this. It feels fun again, you know? That's something that has been missing.

Have I been winning, have I been competing, have I been doing well? Yes, I have. And I won numerous tournaments over the last few years, but I wasn't having anywhere near the amount of fun. And why? Because look at what I was engaged in. When you're living a life where you're lying all the time, it's -- life is not fun. It's -- and that's where I was. Now, that's been stripped all away and here I am, and it feels fun again.

QUESTION: Can you answer the follow-up too? (OFF-MIKE) about the ACL?

WOODS: I would have to say this emotionally, and the ACL physically by far.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Last question, gentleman four back.

QUESTION: Tiger, what are your thoughts on your playing partners this week during the week and the kind of pressure they might be under?

WOODS: You know, I think of all tournaments, I think this is the one tournament where it's not as bad. You know, the media is not allowed inside the ropes. You don't have -- like at the U.S. Open or British Open, we have over 100 people inside the ropes that are moving around. That's going to be a lot more at ease this week than most weeks. So I think that most of the guys -- there's one week that you would rather have a pairing with me, considering the circumstances, it would probably be this week.

HEATLEY: Tiger, as I said earlier, we are delighted to have you back. Good luck.

WOODS: That's great. Thanks, Craig. Thanks, guys.

 
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