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Tiger Woods to return to golf at the Masters

Tiger Woods
Woods will be keen to get the focus back on his professional life

Tiger Woods will make his much-anticipated return to competitive golf at the Masters, starting on 8 April.

The world number one's last tournament appearance was on 15 November - when he won the Australian Masters.

Less than a fortnight later he crashed his car outside his Florida home, an incident that led to revelations about his private life and a break from golf.

"As a professional, I think Augusta's where I need to be, even though it's a while since I last played," he said.

Following the storm of publicity about his personal conduct at the end of last year, Woods made his first public appearance in February to apologise for his actions.

GOLF BLOG
Iain Carter

The 34-year-old revealed he had been having ongoing therapy for his extra-marital affairs, but added he did not yet know when he would be ready to return to competitive golf.

There had been suggestions he could make a comeback at either the Tavistock Cup tournament in Florida on 22/23 March or the Arnold Palmer Invitational, which starts on 25 March, but instead he has announced it will be at the Masters, the year's first major.

Woods has won four times at Augusta National, including the first of his 14 major titles in 1997 when he won by a record 12 shots as a 21-year-old to become the first black player to win a major.

"I have undergone almost two months of inpatient therapy and I am continuing my treatment," Woods added.

Tiger Woods

Masters archive: 1997 Tiger Woods

"Although I'm returning to competition, I still have a lot of work to do in my personal life. When I finally got into a position to think about competitive golf again, it became apparent to me that the Masters would be the earliest I could play.

"I called both Joe Lewis and Arnold Palmer and expressed my regrets for not attending the Tavistock Cup and the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

"I again want to thank them both for their support and their understanding. Those are fantastic tournaments and I look forward to competing in them again.

TIGER WOODS'S FACT FILE
Age: 34
Turned professional: 1996
PGA Tour wins: 71 (Third-highest number of career victories in history)
Total career wins: 92
Major victories: 14 (Masters 1997, 2001, 2002 and 2005; US Open 2000, 2002 and 2008; Open 2000, 2005, 2006; US PGA 1999, 2000, 2006 and 2007)

"I would also like to thank the Augusta National members and staff for their support. I have deep appreciation for everything that they do to create a wonderful event for the benefit of the game."

Augusta National chairman Billy Payne said in a separate statement: "We support Tiger's decision to return to competitive golf beginning at this year's Masters tournament.

"Additionally, we support and encourage his stated commitment to continue the significant work required to rebuild his personal and professional life."

Tim Finchem, commissioner of the PGA Tour, added: "He has invested a lot of time taking steps, both in his personal and professional life, in order to prepare for his return. We all wish him and his family the best as he rejoins the Tour."

Augusta is the one place in the world where you can really have control

Arnold Palmer

Palmer, the host of next week's event in Orlando, was contacted by Woods before the Masters announcement and said: "He didn't feel his game was up to speed to play this early.

"We're all disappointed that Tiger isn't going to be here to play.

"Augusta is the one place in the world where you can really have control. They will control everything from the crowds to the situation that will be facing Tiger.

"I think that if there is a place in the world that you can do that and do it properly, Augusta will do that."

American golf writer Ian O'Connor said the return of Woods would see an unprecedented level of interest in this year's Masters.

"It's fair to say that at least in the US maybe around the world the 2010 Masters have become the biggest golf tournament in history of the sport - without Tiger there's very little interest in the sports in the US," he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

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"With Tiger back in the field, on the course, you'll have people who aren't even sports fans watching because let's face it, Tiger Woods is one of the five or six most recognisable figures on the face of the earth."

BBC golf pundit Jay Townsend said his only regret was that fans would have to wait until April to see Woods back in action - and he had no doubt that if Woods was returning to the competitive fray, it was because he was ready for it.

"We were all hoping he'd play next week at the Arnold Palmer tournament, but he's doing what he has to do, he has to get back on the course," he told BBC Sport.

"I think golf has been fine without him, but it's better with him.

"I can promise you he's not going to come out if he's trying to play his way into shape, especially at Augusta - he will be ready, mark my words."

Woods's decision to return to playing will see him resume one of the greatest careers in golfing history.

The American is third in the all-time PGA Tour rankings in terms of career victories, with only Sam Snead (83) and Jack Nicklaus (73) having done better than his 71 successes.

And he ranks second behind Nicklaus's record of 18 major titles.

Woods has twice come into a major after a long lay-off, with mixed results - he missed the cut in the 2006 US Open at Winged Foot after his father died, and he won the 2008 US Open at Torrey Pines while playing on a seriously injured left knee.

Following the Masters, the US Open in June is at Pebble Beach, where Woods won by a major record 15 shots in 2000, while the Open in July returns to the Old Course at St Andrews where he won by eight strokes 10 years ago and by five in 2005.



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see also
Tiger Woods dropped by Gatorade
27 Feb 10 |  Business
Golf world welcomes Woods apology
19 Feb 10 |  Golf
Repentant Woods sorry for affairs
19 Feb 10 |  Golf
Tiger Woods: Celebrity under pressure
19 Feb 10 |  Americas
Tiger Woods takes break from golf
12 Dec 09 |  Americas


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