WORLD No1 Tiger Woods has finally ended speculation about his future after announcing his much-anticipated return to golf at next month’s US Masters.
Woods, who has not played competitively since 15 November, will tee off at Augusta on 5-11 April without taking on any warm-up events.
The 14-time major winner announced he was taking time out from the game after crashing his car outside his Florida home – an incident which led to revelations about his private life.
But after a 144-day absence, the American is back, plotting his return at Augusta, where he is hunting a fifth Masters’ success.
Woods admitted he is still undergoing treatment for his extra-marital affairs, but admitted he couldn’t resist the challenge of closing in on Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors, as predicted by City.A.M. columnist Sam Torrance yesterday.
Woods said in a statement: “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.
“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.
“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 [on March 25-28].”
Woods has a fantastic record at Augusta, winning the first of his major titles there back in 1997, storming to a record 12 shots as a 21-year-old.
After the Masters, is the US Open at Pebble Beach in June, where Woods won by a major record 15 shots in 2000, while The Open Championship in July returns to the Old Course at St Andrews where he won by eight strokes 10 years ago and by five in 2005.
Torrance said: “I’ve said all along Tiger will be back for all four majors this year – why wouldn’t he?
“Yes, he may be rusty at first but if he harbours any hopes of beating Jack Nicklaus’ majors’ record then he knows that this is the perfect year for him, given the records he has at each venue.
“It’ll be great to see him back playing again.”