AUGUSTA: “Thanks guys” was how Tiger Woods ended the most important press

conference of his life on Monday after he had endured 35 minutes of soul-searching questions from journalists on the dark side of his private life.

It was at once a statement of relief that it was all over, but also a gesture of reconciliation with the press and golf fans worldwide as he attempts to save his own family and get his golfing career back on tracks.

The press conference room was packed long before Woods made his entry, flashing a brief smile and looking left and right as he hesitatingly made his way forward to the interview table. It was his first full press conference since November 27, when he crashed his car into a fire hydrant and tree outside of his Florida home, an early morning drama that eventually led to the world’s best-known sportsman

being exposed as a

serial adulterer who lived a double life of deceit.

He did make an emotional televised apology in front of a carefully selected group of family and friends on February 19 but, in contrast, Monday’s appearance saw him go before what is increasingly becoming for Woods enemy territory. The American had enjoyed an incident-free first official practice round for this week’s tournament during the morning in the company of Freddie Couples.

He ran the full gamut of emotions as scores of hands shot up at the conclusion of each of his answers. No

subject was off limits as Woods was pummelled with questions that ranged from the benign to the belligerent. Drugs, sex, infidelity, loss of self control, self deception, the superstar had to deal with them all.

Wife Elin, children Sam and Charlie and late father Earl were all discussed with Woods voicing over and over again how the manner in which he had let them down had been the hardest thing for him to take. And there was time for a brief barb at the press as he said: “The other difficult part I think over the past few months has just been the constant harrassment to

my family. My wife and

kids are being photographed everywhere they go, being badgered that’s tough on them because it’s really hard for us to heal and try and get through this.”

But as the press conference went on, Woods’ mood lightened considerably as he shot out a few jocular quips and said: “I know a lot of you in here are my friends and will always be my friends.” And despite everything that had happened to him over the last five months, Woods said that one thing remained constant — his will to win. Asked what his expectations were for the week, he shot back: “Nothing’s changed, going to go out there and try to win this thing.”