Tiger to return to golf at the Masters

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Tiger to return to golf at the Masters

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Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods said Tuesday he will return to golf next month at the Masters, ending a four-month hiatus brought on by a sex scandal that shattered his image as the gold standard in sports.

“The Masters is where I won my first major and I view this tournament with great respect,” Woods said in a statement. “After a long and necessary time away from the game, I feel like I’m ready to start my season at Augusta.”

The Masters begins April 8.

The Associated Press first reported his plans to return at Augusta National last Thursday.

Woods has not competed since Nov. 15, when he won the Australian Masters for his 82nd victory worldwide. Twelve days later, he crashed his car into a tree outside his Florida home, setting off shocking revelations that he had been cheating on his wife.

“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,” Woods said.

“I have undergone almost two months of inpatient therapy and I am continuing my treatment,” he said. “Although I’m returning to competition, I still have a lot of work to do in my personal life.”

There had been reports he would play the Tavistock Cup exhibition next week in Orlando, followed by the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, where he is the defending champion and a six-time winner.

“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,” Woods said.

Billy Payne, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament, said the club not only supported Woods’ decision to make his return there, but “additionally, we support and encourage his stated commitment to continue the significant work required to rebuild his personal and professional life.”

Already the major with the highest TV ratings, this Masters could be the biggest yet. The first two rounds are televised on ESPN, with CBS Sports on the weekend.

“Obviously, the ratings will be off the chart,” golfer Heath Slocum said. “It will be interesting to watch - not only the reaction from him, but from the fans, the media, the players. I would venture to say he might be nervous.”

Asked about a Woods return last week, CBS Sports president Sean McManus also thought viewership would be huge: “My only prediction is when he comes back, it will be, other than the Obama inauguration, one of if not the biggest media spectacle in recent memory.”

Woods twice has come into a major after a long layoff without playing, with mixed results - he missed the cut at Winged Foot for the 2006 U.S. Open after his father died, and he won the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines while playing on a shattered left knee.


AP
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