Saddened Woods says divorce made it tough to compete

By Larry Fine

PARAMUS, New Jersey (Reuters) - Tiger Woods said on Wednesday the break-up of his marriage was far more difficult for him than he had let on and that the fallout from his string of infidelities had poisoned his golf game.

Woods, speaking to reporters for the first time since his divorce this week from his Swedish wife Elin Nordegren, also said he hopes he has learned to become a better person.

The 34-year-old world number one, who has failed to win in nine starts this year, told reporters outside the clubhouse at Ridgewood Country Club that he felt no sense of relief.

"I don't think you ever go into a marriage looking to get divorced. That's the thing. That's why it is sad.

"My actions certainly led us to this decision. And I've certainly made a lot of errors in my life and that's something I'm going to have to live with."

Woods said arranging the divorce was a painful process even if he managed to keep his composure when questioned about the state of his marriage at every event he played this year.

"It was a lot more difficult than I was letting on," said Woods.

After ending a self-imposed, five-month absence from golf while he underwent counseling and tried to repair his marriage, Woods tied for fourth at the U.S. Masters and two months later repeated that result at June's U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.

After that, his game spiraled downward, culminating in the worst four-round performance of his PGA Tour career at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational earlier this month.

Asked if he had considered stepping away after his return, Woods said: "We've been going through that the entire year."

On whether there were tournaments where he felt that all the distractions and questions were too difficult, Woods said: "There were a few tournaments like that, yeah. Most of the summer was like that."

Despite the personal turmoil and losing up to $35 million in sponsorship deals following the scandal, Woods said he still did not consider 2010 to be a lost year.

"I don't look at it like that. Every year you have to find the positives," said Woods. "Even though there are a lot of negatives I think that's actually a good thing, because I learned a lot about myself and how I could become a better person."

Woods said he bore no hard feelings toward Nordegren, with whom he has two young children.

"I wish her the best in everything," he said. "You know, it's a sad time in our lives. And we're looking forward to ... how we can help our kids the best way we possibly can. And that's the most important thing."

(Editing by Frank Pingue)