Woods in for 'tough time' on return

Golfer announces comeback for US Masters after taking break during adultery revelations.

    World in his hands: Woods with the Australian Masters two weeks before the revelations [GALLO/GETTY] 

    Tiger Woods will start trying to restore a reputation battered by marital infidelities at next month's US Masters – the tournament that helped him become the world's most marketable sportsman.

    The world number one has not competed since his victory at the Australian Masters on November 15 and has opted to make his comeback at Augusta National where he won the first of his 14 majors in 1997.

    "I view this tournament with great respect," Woods said in a statement on Tuesday.

    "After a long and necessary time away from the game, I feel like I'm ready to start my season at Augusta."

    The 34-year-old American, whose golfing dominance has placed him in the pantheon of all-time sporting greats since he turned professional in late 1996, has won the Masters four times.

    'Special focus'

    "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.

    Woods announced in December he was taking an indefinite break from the game to save his marriage after revelations emerged of his repeated infidelity.

    He had not indicated until Tuesday when he might return to the game.

    Woods trails only Jack Nicklaus – with 18 titles – in the all-time major standings and has long targeted overhauling the benchmark set by his fellow American who was his golfing idol as a child.

    The scandal around Woods erupted after he crashed his car outside his Florida home in the middle of the night in November, a bizarre incident that triggered a storm of media speculation over his private life.

    The minor accident led to a parade of women alleging publicly they had had affairs with the golfer.

    Last month Woods made a carefully managed first public appearance, saying he was sorry for cheating on his Swedish wife, Elin Nordegren, with whom he has two small children, and that he was undergoing therapy.

    Personal work

    "Although I'm returning to competition, I still have a lot of work to do in my personal life," he said on Tuesday.

    Woods apologised publicy to his Swedish wife Elin [GALLO/GETTY]

    Four-times US Masters winner Arnold Palmer said Woods would face a struggle on his return to golf.

    "For Tiger it is going to be tough, it is going to be something that will take him a little time to get used to," Palmer told the Golf Channel.

    Palmer hosts his PGA Tour invitational event next week at his Bay Hill course and there had been rumours Woods might use that occasion to ease himself back in to competitive golf.

    But Palmer said he had spoken twice to Woods shortly before the announcement and while he was disappointed not to have the world number one in his field he understood the motives.

    "I spoke to him a couple of times, I spoke to him last night and then again this morning just to make sure that everything was the way I got it.

    "He expressed his regrets for not being able to play and said that he was sorry but that he really didn't feel his game was up to speed to start playing this early.

    Woods, who is believed to be the world's wealthiest athlete, was estimated to earn about $100 million a year in endorsement deals before the scandal led AT&T and Accenture to drop him as a spokesman. Other sponsors stood by him.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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