Woods makes appearance

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Amid the unrelenting attention focused on the return of Tiger Woods to golf at the Masters, it is easy to forget that his 2009 season on the golf course was quite successful.

He won six times on the PGA Tour to run his victory total to 71, captured the season-long FedEx Cup competition and also won another tournament in Australia.

That earned him player of the year honors from the Golf Writers Association of America, which traditionally hands out its award in Augusta on the eve of the Masters.

It was the 10th time in 13 seasons that Woods received player of the year honors, and he has never missed the occasion. Despite the hype associated with his return to golf, Woods made an appearance Wednesday to accept his award.

In a brief acceptance speech, Woods joked that "I'll stick to golf" and summed up his season.

"I came back from my knee surgery, I had an Achilles problem, but for some reason I had a hot putter," Woods said about his success on the course. "I don't think I've ever been as good of a cheerleader as I was at the Presidents Cup. It's the only reason I went 5-0 because of [partner Steve] Stricker there.

"It was pretty cool to be back playing, coming back after the knee surgery. I missed playing and missed trying to beat these guys," he said.

The same could probably be said for right now, as Woods returns from an almost five-month break due to a sex scandal that put his golf career on hold. He has not played since winning the Australian Masters on Nov. 15 and tees off at 1:42 p.m. ET Thursday in the first round of the Masters, a tournament he has won four times.

Woods marveled at the fact that four teens are in the field and reminisced about his first Masters in 1995, when he was just 19. He talked about playing a practice round with Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, participating with them in the Par 3 Contest, and staying in the Crow's Nest inside the club, the typical place where amateurs reside during the tournament.

"I remember coming down to watch Gene Sarazen and Byron Nelson tee off for my first year," Woods said. "This year we have Arnold and Jack [as honorary starters]. It's pretty special."

Woods was among an impressive group of players who accepted awards from the GWAA, including Padraig Harrington, Ernie Els, Tom Watson and Ken Green. J.A. Shin was given the organization's LPGA player of the year award while Loren Roberts won Champions Tour player of the year.

Bob Harig is a golf writer for ESPN.com.