Monday, April 5, 2010
Updated: April 6, 7:36 AM ET
Woods denies Galea gave him HGH
By Bob Harig
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Despite winning numerous times over the past several years, including major championships, Tiger Woods admitted Monday that golf was not fun because of all the turmoil in his personal life.
That's why, Woods said, he is looking forward to the start of the Masters on Thursday, his first tournament since a sordid sex scandal put his career on hold.
"Look at what I was engaged in," Woods said to a packed interview room at Augusta National Golf Club, where Woods held his first news conference in more than five months. "When you're living a life that is a lie, life isn't fun ... that's been stripped away. It feels fun again."
Woods' highly anticipated news conference before more than 200 reporters lasted 34 minutes and included all range of questions, including why he chose to receive treatment from a Canadian doctor who has been linked as a provider of performance-enhancing drugs to other athletes.
For the first time, Woods disclosed that in addition to recovering from reconstructive knee surgery in late 2008, he also tore his Achilles tendon in his right foot late that year.
Woods admitted to undergoing a procedure known as platelet-rich plasma (PRP), which helps speed the healing process. He said he chose Dr. Anthony Galea -- who is under federal investigation in a drugs case -- because of his work with other athletes. Galea came to Woods' house to perform the procedure.
The platelet-rich plasma treatment Woods cited was introduced in the 1970s for surgical uses in hospitals. It didn't enter sports medicine until a decade ago. In the 30-minute procedure, a tube of a patient's blood is put in a centrifuge and spun, producing concentrated platelets. The platelets contain growth factors that accelerate tissue repair and regeneration. The platelets then are injected into the injury site.
PRP is gaining popularity among injured "weekend warriors" and their insurers because its $2,000 cost is a fraction of that for potential surgeries.
The procedure is legal under the PGA Tour's drug testing policy.
Woods also denied that Galea gave him human growth hormone.
"I've never taken any illegal drug in my life," Woods said.
Woods said that his agent, Mark Steinberg, has been contacted by federal investigators about Galea, who has been charged with dispensing illegal drugs in both Canada and the United States. Woods vowed his full cooperation.
"They contacted my agent and will get full cooperation whenever they need me, but right now they haven't asked for my time," he said.
Asked why he did not address the issue earlier -- The New York Times first reported Galea's link to Woods in December -- the golfer said it was because he had not had the forum to discuss it, and wasn't asked in the two televised interviews last month.
Woods' world -- and that of golf -- has changed greatly since his Nov. 27 SUV accident just outside of his Florida driveway.
That mysterious run-in with a fire hydrant and a tree began a stream of negative publicity that continued with numerous reports of extramarital affairs, his leave from the game, a stint in undisclosed rehab and a gradual return to the public glare.
Woods said that he had five stitches in his mouth after the infamous Thanksgiving night car crash.
Woods also said he made "some incredibly bad decisions" and "hurt so many people." He again said that he takes all the blame for allowing his life to fall apart and refused to say why he spent 45 days in rehabilitation. He said he intends to continue with his treatment.
While his wife, Elin, won't be joining him at Augusta, Woods still believes he can win his fifth green jacket after a five-month layoff.
"Nothing's changed," Woods said. "Going to go out there and try to win this thing."
Woods made his first public comments on Feb. 19 at PGA Tour headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., apologizing to his family, friends and business associates and promising to "make amends, and that starts by never repeating the mistakes I've made. It's up to me to start living a life of integrity."
Just less than a month later, on March 16, Woods announced that he would be returning to golf at the Masters. On March 21, he gave his first interviews, five minutes each to ESPN and Golf Channel. Monday was the first time he took questions in an extended format.
Typically, Woods would have fielded queries in a pre-tournament setting with topics such as why he has not won the Masters in five years or why he has claimed just one green jacket in his past seven attempts.
But after a break from golf of nearly five months, the answers to those questions were left for another day.
Among the subjects he addressed among the 48 questions asked:
• On why he didn't speak to the police, sponsors or the media in the five weeks following the accident and before he entered rehab: "I did everything to the letter of the law. The lawyers gave me advice and I followed that advice. I did everything to the letter of the law."
• On showing more respect to the game, as he vowed to do in February: "I made a conscious decision to try and tone down my negative outbursts and consequently my positives outbursts will be calmed down as well."
• On winning golf tournaments while living a secret life and how he will be able to move forward: "I think how I was earlier in my career. I was at peace, and I've had some great years. Unfortunately what I've done over the past years has been just terrible to my family. And the fact I won golf tournaments I think is irrelevant."
• On whether he has taken prescription drugs Ambien and Vicodin: "I've taken them, yes. I've had some pretty interesting knee situations over the years. I've had four operations now on my left knee. Then last year with my torn Achilles, it hurt quite a bit at times ... That's when I was taking some of those things to help me sleep."
• On rehab: "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. I'm certainly a much better person for it than I was going in. Does that mean I'm ever going to stop doing that? No, I've got to still continue with my treatment. And that's not going to stop in the near future for sure." Asked what the treatment was for, Woods said: "That's personal."
• On how he fooled so many people for so long: "I fooled myself as well. I lied to a lot of people, deceived a lot of people, kept others in the dark," he said. "Rationalized and even lied to myself. And when you strip that all away ... the full magnitude of it, it's pretty brutal. I take full responsibility for what I've done, and I don't take that lightly."
Masters officials made it clear that it was their idea for the interview to take place on Monday, not as a concession to Woods, who would have normally met the media on Tuesday. But to do so then would have rendered every other interview meaningless, while making it impossible to get the focus on the tournament.
Earlier Woods played a practice round with former Masters champion Fred Couples. They were joined by Jim Furyk on the 13th and played the rest of the way together.
Although the crowd was cordial, it was not overly enthusiastic.
Woods made an attempt to interact with spectators -- not typical for him -- and even engaged in the tradition of trying to skip a shot over the pond at Augusta's par-3 16th. Nobody remembers Woods ever doing that.
Woods said he'll play another practice round Tuesday with Steve Stricker and Mark O'Meara.
"I was more nervous [out there],'' Woods said. "That first tee, I didn't know what to expect. To be out there in front of the people where I have done some things that are just horrible. For the fans to really want to see me play golf again, that felt great. ... Today was a little bit different. I kind of took it in a little bit more and it felt really good.''
Woods also promised to tone down his outbursts after good and bad shots alike, saying he had a responsibility to children as a role model to set a better example on the course.
"A lot has happened in my life in the past five months," Woods said. "I'm here at the Masters to play and compete and I'm really excited about doing that."
Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.