By Larry Fine
AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Tiger Woods was guarded about the state of his marriage on Monday but reaffirmed his commitment to his family as he prepared to end a five-month self-imposed exile from golf at the Masters.
Woods told a news conference he had lied to himself as well to his wife, family and friends about his secret life of sexual dalliances. But he added he was emerging from the ordeal of personal and public humiliation with a new appreciation for what really mattered in life.
The world number one underwent 45 days of treatment after his serial infidelities became public, although he would not specify what he was treated for.
"That's personal, thank you," he said, before throwing some light on the family life that his behavior has threatened.
"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.
"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. That hurts a lot. 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 was very hard that day and something I regret and I probably will for the rest of my life."
Asked if his wife, Elin, and the children would be joining him this week at Augusta, the 34-year-old Woods said: "Elin is not coming this week, no."
Asked whether he should be returning to golf so soon rather than spending more time to repair his marriage, Woods replied: "Well, I'm excited to play this week."
In his first public comments in February following the sex scandal revelations, Woods sounded like he was a long way from returning to competitive golf.
The American told reporters that after a few days of practice and some work with his swing coach Hank Haney he started to feel "the itch" to resume playing.
"It feels fun again," said Woods. "When you live a life where you're lying all the time, life is not fun. And that's where I was. Now that's been stripped all away and here I am. And it feels fun again."
(Reporting by Larry Fine, Editing by John Mehaffey)