Tiger Woods says he’s “infinitely” happier now than he was before the sex scandal that ended his marriage and still hungers to break the record of 18 major triumphs set by Jack Nicklaus.
In a radio interview with ESPN, part of a bid to reconnect with golf fans nearly a year after the auto accident that touched off the scandal, Woods said that despite all he has lost he is better off for it.
“Infinitely (happier). I’m just more clear about my perspective, who I am, where I want to go. It’s amazing how much better I feel each and every day,” Woods said.
“It was the best thing to go through that and come out on the other side and look at where I’m at now and how much better I feel now. I have a much better perspective now.” The former world No.1 called his quest to win five more major titles and pass Nicklaus for the all-time record “still important.”
“I would still like to get to 19,” Woods said. “Obviously I need to play better, shoot lower scores. Shooting rounds in the 70s ain’t going to get it done.”
About trying to regain his top form after a winless season and no longer being a defending champion at any event, Woods said: “I’m just putting the pieces together. “At tournament time (I need to) make the adjustments and turn on the right fix. That’s something I’m working on.”
Woods, a 14-time major champion, was getting ahead of stories to come next week about the anniversary of the scandal that led to revelations about his infidenlity and the destruction of his once-iconic image.
“It’s about time I basically again made a connection to fans who have been pretty great to me in the past year,” Woods said.
The sex scandal has led to his divorce from Elin Nordegren and his fall from the world number one ranking after a 2010 season in which he went winless for the first time in his career.
“If that didn’t happen. I don’t think I would be as blessed and as balanced as I am now,” Woods said.
“It was a slow gradual process when I had slipped away from my core values and my upbringing. It wasn’t a pleasant feling. It wasn’t a good place to be. It was very destructive.”
Show hosts Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic said they could ask anything they wanted but would not ask about each specific woman who has claimed a sexual relationship with Woods during his marriage.
The Woods charm offensive has also included a first-person writing in Newsweek magazine and his arrival on Twitter.
Woods on Wednesday began sending messages on the Twitter social network and already has 150,000 followers. Minutes after the interview he “tweeted”: “The best part about phone interview is getting to wear shorts.”
Woods said his goal was to become a better man and rebuild his life on and off the golf course.
“To rebuild it is basically coming to grips with who I am. If I’m not happy, the fans will know it,” Woods said.
“I was down. I was angry. I wasn’t happy with who I was. I was doing things that morally, inside, I knew were wrong. I’ve come out the other side.”
Asked if the wives of golf rivals welcomed his return, Woods said: “A lot of the wives were fantastic, were extremely nice to me.”
Woods said his children with Nordegren, daughter Sam and son Charlie, were “priority number one”.
“They mean everything to me,” Woods said. “I’m thankful to have my kids, to spend time with them, teaching them something every single day.”