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Tiger fields questions, but can he lead field?

Before Tiger Woods could get to where he was Monday - smiling in the sunshine with his practice round buddies Fred Couples and Jim Furyk at the Masters - he had to find a bottom he didn't know existed.

Nearly five months after a Thanksgiving weekend auto accident that sent him to the hospital for five stitches in his lip and started a string of devastating revelations about his personal life, Woods re-emerged Monday at Augusta National.

After a morning practice round that drew an enormous and supportive gallery, Woods spent 35 minutes Monday afternoon taking questions from reporters about all that has happened in recent months.

On the course, he showed a softer side, occasionally engaging fans, even putting golf balls to children when he finished playing. Wearing gray slacks, a gray and yellow striped shirt and some chin whiskers, Woods looked surprisingly relaxed given the anticipation surrounding his return.

He succeeded with something he hasn't often used - charm.

If it didn't officially end the scandal that has engulfed Woods, it was a day and a media session that took much of the heat from the still-smoldering fire.

"Whatever I did, I lied to myself, I lied to others and just because I was winning golf tournaments doesn't mean a thing," Woods said to a packed media room. "The way I was thinking caused so much harm with the people I love and care about the most on the planet."

The only revelation Monday was that Woods played last year with a torn Achilles tendon, an injury that resulted from the rehabilitation he did for his 2008 knee surgery. He aggravated the injury several times and played with his foot taped at times to alleviate the discomfort.

Woods said he received no performance-enhancing drugs or human growth hormone from Dr. Anthony Galea, who used a platelet enrichment program to help speed Woods' recovery from knee surgery.

The world's No.1 golfer also refused to explain the events that led to the Thanksgiving weekend accident, other than to say it left him with a busted lip and sore neck. He said he cooperated "to the letter of the law" with authorities on the advice of his lawyers.

Of Woods' 16 Masters appearances, Monday was a day unlike any other. He admitted to being nervous about how the galleries would accept him, but it was almost as if nothing had changed.

"It was extremely positive," Furyk said.

Woods said he is making a conscious effort to change his behavior on the course as well as off. He admitted he hadn't fully appreciated his fan support and will work to contain his emotional outbursts - both positive and negative - during tournament play.

Though he deflected some questions - he said his wife, Elin, won't be at the Masters but wouldn't elaborate on whether she supports his return to golf - Woods also offered some insight into his time away and the events that led to it.

Always fiercely protective of his privacy, Woods provided glimpses into the pain he caused by his actions.

Asked why he waited until the revelations of his infidelity surfaced to address his behavior and seek help, Woods said, "I had not hit far enough on the bottom to make myself look at what I've done and what I've engaged in," he said.

Woods said he made the decision to enter therapy shortly before Christmas.

"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," Woods said.

"That was my son's (Charlie) first birthday (Feb. 8). 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. That was very hard that day and something I regret and probably will for the rest of my life."

When the subject turned to golf, specifically this Masters, Woods was asked his expectations for his first tournament since November.

His answer sounded like the old Tiger Woods.

"Nothing's changed," Woods said. "Going to go out there and try to win this thing."

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