Rusty Jarrett/Reuters/Landov
April 05, 2010 03:10 PM

His wife Elin Nordegren won’t be there, but Tiger Woods said Monday that his comeback at the Masters is not just about playing golf but about turning his life around after all the lies and betrayals of recent years.

Woods, 34, did not elaborate on Nordegren’s decision but did speak poignantly about his family – in particular, about being in rehab and missing his son Charlie’s first birthday on Feb. 8. “That hurts,” Woods said. “That hurts a lot. I vowed I would never miss another one after that. I can’t go back to what I was.”

Speaking at a press conference at Augusta National, Woods, who has admitted to a number of extramarital affairs, portrayed himself as a man who completely lost his moral bearings in recent years – but who is slowly reconnecting to his core values through therapy.

Asked how he could have fooled so many people for so long, he replied: “I fooled myself as well. I lied to a lot of people, deceived a lot of people, kept others in the dark, rationalized and even lied to myself. When I stripped all of that away and started realizing what I had done, the full magnitude of it, it’s pretty brutal.”

And the man who has won 14 professional major golf championships said he has also begun putting all of his tremendous success in perspective. “The fact that I won golf tournaments is irrelevant compared to the damage I’ve caused,” he said.

PHOTO: Where Was Elin Nordegren During Tiger’s Press Conference?

Admits to Nerves

Woods admitted to being nervous about his return and said he was humbled by the fans’ support during his practice rounds so far at Augusta. “The galleries couldn’t be nicer,” he said. “The encouragement I got, it blew me away, to be honest with you, it really did.”

But at this point, he emphasized, it’s not about his performance on the golf course. It’s about finding the peace and strength he used to have – and always had, he believes, under the layers of deceit.

“I haven’t done it the right way in a while,” he said. “I need to be a better man going forward than I have been.”

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