Tiger Woods to return for The Masters

Tiger Woods is making his comeback at The Masters between April 8-11 – and that is official from the man himself.

Just 25 days after the world number one said he might not play this year, he has decided he will be ready to play again at Augusta.

“The major championships have always been a special focus in my career and, as a professional, I think Augusta is where I need to be, even though it’s been a while since I last played,” he said in a statement today.

“I have undergone almost two months of inpatient therapy and I am continuing my treatment.

“Although I’m returning to competition, I still have a lot of work to do in my personal life.”

The world number one added: “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 (next Monday and Tuesday) and the Arnold Palmer Invitational (from March 25-28).

“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.

“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.”

Woods’ decision was anticipated after American Tour commissioner Tim Finchem spoke in Miami on Sunday.

“I’m as excited as everybody else to see him back I hope this spring, but my sense is we’ll know pretty soon,” he said.

“Everybody’s done looking back at the circumstances that resulted in him stepping away from the game and (are) now focused on when he’s going to play golf.

“I think that’s good. I think that means people are paying attention to what he said.

“It’s going to be huge when he comes back and it’s going to be an interesting thing – how he re-enters the game, how he plays, how he deals with the reaction to his statement.”

Woods last played on November 15, winning the Australian Masters in Melbourne and taking his total of professional victories to 92.

The 34-year-old was involved in controversy there when he threw his driver in anger and it bounced into the crowd.

Twelve days later came the car crash outside his home which put him first into hospital and then into hiding as a sex scandal erupted.

Woods admitted to “transgressions” on his website, then used the same forum to announce he was taking an indefinite break from the game to try to save his marriage.

It was not until February 19 that he finally made a public appearance.

It was merely to read a statement rather than answer questions, however, and only towards the end of his 13-minute guilt-ridden, apology-laden address to family and friends at the headquarters of the PGA Tour did he actually mention his career.

“I do plan to return to golf one day, I just don’t know when that day will be,” he said.

“I don’t rule out that it will be this year. When I do return, I need to make my behaviour more respectful of the game.”

Not ruling out that it would be this year hinted that his lay-off would go on for many months at least, yet within days there was speculation that he was gearing up for a comeback much sooner than that.

Making the first major of the season – an event Woods has won four times – his first tournament back will not please everybody because of the massive focus on him that cannot be avoided.

World number two Steve Stricker said at the weekend: “Whenever he comes back it’s going to draw a lot of attention to that tournament.

“I don’t know if Augusta would like that to happen, you know? To turn it into ‘Tiger’s Comeback Tournament’ instead of the Masters tournament, itself.

“Hopefully, he comes back before then. You’d think, as a player, being gone for so long, he’d want to come back before.”

Following the death of his father Earl in 2006, Woods returned for the United States Open a month later. He missed the halfway cut, but a month after that won The Open at Hoylake.

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