Augusta, Ga. — He looked like the same Tiger Woods, head down as he walked along the first fairway at the Masters, no one suspecting the jangled nerves he felt from taking his golf public for the first time since his private life unraveled.
One fan called out, “Welcome back, Tiger.”
Instead of ignoring him as he has done so often, Woods turned toward the man with a wave and a smile.
“To be out there in front of the people, where I have done some things that are just horrible, and for the fans to really want to see me play golf again ... I mean, that felt great,” Woods said Monday. “That really did.”
Then came another tense moment — facing the media for the first time since he was exposed for cheating on his wife.
He dodged questions with rehearsed answers, refused to go into details about the therapy he sought or the state of his marriage, except that his wife won’t be at Augusta National this week. But there was a touch of humility and patience in his voice during a 35-minute news conference. He even tried to call every writer by name.
“I need to be a better man going forward than I was before,” he said. “And just because I’ve gone through treatment doesn’t mean it stops. I’m trying as hard as I possibly can each and every day to get my life better and better and stronger. And if I win championships along the way, so be it.”
One thing hasn’t changed.
Woods, a four-time champion who hasn’t hit a shot that mattered since Nov. 15, is not at the Masters simply to make amends.
“Going to go out there and try to win this thing,” he said.
And so ended a most unusual start to the Masters, which might be as tough as any round Woods plays this week.
It was a solid start in the process of restoring his image. Woods clearly was intent on mingling more with the fans than he did before the sex scandal. First, he putted a couple of balls to some kids watching alongside the 18th green. Then, a real surprise: He stopped to sign autographs while heading to the practice range.
He had not played to the crowd since winning the Australian Masters in Melbourne, where fans saw him only as golf’s best player with 82 victories and 14 majors and no rival except history.
His world caved in 12 days later with a car accident outside his home that sent him to the hospital with a busted lip that required five stitches, and a shattered image that might take years to repair.
“A lot has happened in my life over the past five months,” said Woods, who provided a few details and denials in the 47 questions he fielded from reporters who occupied all 207 seats in the media center.
Among the revelations:
• He ruptured the Achilles’ tendon in his right leg in December 2008, two months before his return from knee surgery. Woods said he was taking Vicodin for that and his left knee.
• He began taking Ambien after his father died because he was having trouble sleeping.
• He was sent to an Orlando, Fla., hospital after his Nov. 27 accident for a sore neck and a cut lip.
• He denied ever taking human growth hormone, performance-enhancing drugs or “any illegal drug.” He said he sought out Canadian doctor Anthony Galea for “blood spinning” because of his treatment on other athletes. Galea’s assistant was caught bringing HGH and other substances into the United States last year.
A&M extends Turgeon pact
College Station, Texas — Texas A&M coach Mark Turgeon has agreed to contract extension to remain with the Aggies.
The length and other details of the extension were not yet released, pending approval of the contract by Texas A&M regents in late May.
Turgeon has posted a 73-31 record in his first three seasons at Texas A&M and led the Aggies to the NCAA Tournament in each of those seasons.
The Aggies went 24-10 this season, losing in the NCAA regional semifinals in overtime to Purdue.
Athletic director Bill Byrne says the extension was important to reward Turgeon “for a tremendous season.”
Pitt State hires Muff
Pittsburg — Pittsburg State University will introduce Kevin Muff as its new men’s basketball coach today. The Pittsburg Sun indicated that Cloud County CC coach Muff will take over for Gene Iba, who retired after 15 seasons. KU video coordinator Kyle Keller was a finalist for the position.
Wagner hires Dan Hurley
New York — Dan Hurley was hired as Wagner’s basketball coach Monday, the same day his father joined the Hall of Fame.
Dan Hurley spent nine years at St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark, N.J., where he built the program into one of the nation’s best. He had a 223-21 record and four teams ranked in the top five in the country.
Bob Hurley Sr., the great high school coach, will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this summer. Dan and his brother, Bobby, played for their father at St. Anthony High School in Jersey City, N.J. The senior Hurley finished with a 957-106 record and 24 state championships in 38 seasons.
Coach K not going to Nets
Indianapolis — Mike Krzyzewski isn’t interested in leaving Duke for the New Jersey Nets.
Krzyzewski says through a spokesman that he hasn’t been contacted by the Nets and “wouldn’t have any interest in the job.”
UCLA forward leaving
Los Angeles — Forward Mike Moser is leaving UCLA after one season.
Moser became the third underclassman to leave the Bruins in the past four months on Monday. UCLA finished 14-18, its worst record since coach Ben Howland’s first year in 2003-04.
Sutton hearing delayed
Stillwater, Okla. — A court hearing for Sean Sutton has been pushed back while the former Oklahoma State men’s basketball coach continues an out-of-state drug rehabilitation program.
Sutton had been due to appear in Payne County District Court on Monday, but Judge Phillip Corley rescheduled the court date for June 7.
Rams release Bulger
St. Louis — The St. Louis Rams released quarterback Marc Bulger on Monday, perhaps clearing the way for them to take Sam Bradford with the first pick of the draft.
Coach Steve Spagnuolo said in a release that it was difficult to make the move and wished the 33-year-old Bulger well. Last month the Rams signed A.J. Feeley, presumably as next year’s backup on a team that was 1-15 in 2009.
DT re-signs with Saints
Metaire, La. — Anthony Hargrove has agreed to return to the defending champion New Orleans Saints, who gave the defensive tackle the opportunity to resurrect his career in 2009 after a yearlong suspension for substance abuse.
Gun had bullet in chamber
Cleveland — A police report says a gun that Cleveland Browns player Shaun Rogers allegedly tried to carry through airport security was cocked with a bullet in the chamber.
The Plain Dealer reported Monday that the police report states the cocked semiautomatic handgun was on safe mode with seven bullets in the magazine and one in the chamber.
Beckett, Boston agree
Boston — Red Sox ace Josh Beckett agreed to a $68 million, four-year contract extension through the 2014, solidifying one of baseball’s best rotations.
The former World Series MVP and Cy Young Award runner-up said he did not press for a fifth year like the Red Sox gave free-agent John Lackey because he was happy to stay with a team that will be competitive.
Beckett gets a $5 million signing bonus, payable when the contract is approved by the commissioner’s office, and annual salaries of $15.75 million.
Denver — The Denver Nuggets are hoping Kenyon Martin can return to practice after being out for a month with patellar tendinitis in his left knee.
However, acting head coach Adrian Dantley said Monday that he wasn’t sure what Martin would be able to do at practice today or even if he’ll be able to withstand the pain enough to participate in drills.
Marshall players suspended
Huntington, W.Va. — Two Marshall University football players have been suspended following their arrests on misdemeanor charges. Marshall athletics spokesman Randy Burnside said Monday that the suspensions of defensive backs DeQuan Bembry and T.J. Drakeford are indefinite.