Tiger Woods apologized to his fellow golfers Monday and said he was blown away by the reception from fans at Augusta National during his first practice round for the Masters, telling a gathering of reporters, "I lied to myself" about getting away with numerous alleged extra-marital affairs.
But when he was asked why he spent 45 days in "rehab" this year, his response was a terse "that's personal."
It was all part of an orchestrated return by the world's greatest golfer, who hasn't played in a tournament since November, when sordid details of his personal life began emerging following an infamous Thanksgiving night car crash.
Woods fended off rumors that he used performance-enhancing drugs, saying he had received legal rehabilitation treatments after tearing his ACL in 2008. Speculation has been swirling because of his connection to Tony Galea, a Canadian sports doctor suspected of subscribing human growth hormone (HGH) and other performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) to other athletes.
"He never gave me HGH or any PEDs. I've never taken that in my entire life; I've never taken any illegal drug in my life for that matter," Woods told reporters as he answered open questions for the first time since his crash.
Returning to the subject of his life off the golf course, he stressed that "I lied to myself, I lied to my family" -- and announced that his wife Elin would not be joining him at the tournament.
Despite the tangled web of scandal that has wrapped around the four-time Masters champion, Woods said his reception from fans Monday "just blew me away," thanking them for their embrace after he played a practice round in public view Monday.
"The people here over the years are extremely respectful, but today it just touched my heart pretty good," he said.
"For them to still cheer for me is just incredible," he said.
Woods also made a public apology to other golfers on the PGA tour, who he said had been bombarded with questions about his private life, taking the attention off the game itself.
Despite the season he's spent in rehab and in hiding from the public -- precious months spent away from the links -- Woods said that "nothing's changed" and that he expects he can win the Masters.
"I'm going to go out there and try to win this thing," he said.
But after nearly five months off, he still wasn't sure how he would perform when the tournament begins Thursday.
"The fact that I haven't really played at all, that's a little bit concerning. I hope I get my feel back quickly."