In his first news conference since scandal broke, Tiger Woods said Monday that the six weeks he spent in rehab after admitting to infidelity changed him.
“I was in there for 45 days, and it was to take a hard look at myself — and I did,” he told reporters at the Augusta National Golf Club as he prepares to return to golf at the Masters. “And I’ve come out better — certainly a much better person for it than I was going in.”
Woods said he will continue therapy and also indicated that he hopes to woo back sponsors who have left him in droves.
“Do I understand why they dropped me? Of course,” he said. “I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life.”
He added, “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.”
Woods did not answer when asked whether he had taken Ambien before the car crash in November that ultimately led to the world learning about his infidelity.
He simply said the police had investigated the case and fined him $166. “It’s a closed case,” he said.
Rumors that Woods had used the sleeping aid extensively arose after the crash.
He admitted he was nervous to play in a tournament again, saying, “I didn’t know what to expect.”
“I’ve done some things that are just horrible. And for the fans to really want to see me play golf again, that felt great it really did,” he said.
Woods also apologized to the other players, whom he said the media have “bombarded” with questions about him.
“I certainly apologize to all of them for having to endure what they’ve had to endure over the past few months,” he said.
Returning to golf at the Masters, Woods is ending his self-imposed exile stemming from the car accident outside his home and his subsequent admission of extramarital affairs amid a media frenzy.
“The mental challenge that is facing Tiger Woods as he returns to Augusta National and then afterwards at other PGA Tour events, we can assume, later on in the 2010 season, is probably something that no other golfer has ever faced before,” said David Dusek, deputy editor of Golf.com.
Woods hopes to claim his 15th victory in a major tournament at the Masters, which tees off Thursday.