Tiger will play at the Masters - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Tiger will play at the Masters

AUGUSTA, GA (PGA) - Tiger Woods announced Tuesday that he will return to the PGA TOUR at the Masters the second week of April.

In a statement that Woods released Tuesday, he said: "The Masters is where I won my first major and I view this tournament with great respect. After a long and necessary time away from the game, I feel like I'm ready to start my season 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.

"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 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.

"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."

Speculation had existed that Woods might return at next week's Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard. But Palmer told the GOLF Channel that Woods called him Monday to tell him that he wouldn't be able to defend his title at Bay Hill.

Palmer said Woods felt "he didn't feel his game was up to speed to play this early." Palmer said, "We're all disappointed that Tiger isn't going to be here to play."

Woods last played competitive golf in early November at the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions, where he tied for sixth. His last PGA TOUR start was at the TOUR Championship in September. He finished second behind Mickelson. Woods was also the winner of the 2009 FedExCup points' race.

It's unclear what kind of shape Woods will be in at Augusta and how he'll react to fans. He's been spotted recently back home at Isleworth, working on the range with swing coach Hank Haney, according to reports from GolfDigest.com.

Charles Howell III said at The Honda Classic that he had spent an hour on the range with Woods.

"Honestly, he looked as good as he ever has," Howell said. "Seriously, he seemed like he was hitting it the same as he ever did."

J.B. Holmes also caught a glimpse of Woods on the range and reiterated Howell's observations.

"I watched him hit about five or six drivers, and it looked like they all ended up in a 10-yard area. It looks like he's hitting it pretty good," he told Golfweek magazine.

Rory McIlroy is excited to see the World's No. 1 return to golf.

"It's certainly going to be interesting to see, not just how he plays, but how he handles the whole situation," he said at the World Golf Championships-CA Championship.

There has always been a lot of attention on Woods at tournaments, but certainly there will be even more as he returns to golf, which is something both he and his playing partners will have to deal with.

"I've always enjoyed playing with the best players in the world, and especially the No. 1 player in the world. There's always a lot of extra sort of distraction out there," said Paul Casey. "But yeah, this time around could be even more so. The sort of scrutiny will be on a level that I'm probably -- probably something we've never witnessed before. But they won't be watching me."

Regardless of the circus that will surround his return, players seem anxious to have him back on the course. Phil Mickelson stated earlier in the season, "The game of golf needs him to come back. It's important for him to come back and be a part of the sport."

Woods announced an indefinite break from golf in early Dec. 2009, following the car crash outside his Windermere, FL, home on Nov. 27, and subsequent admission of infidelity. He announced the break on his Web site, stating, "I need to focus my attention on being a better husband, father, and person."

On Feb. 19, Woods resurfaced at TPC Sawgrass to address the scandal. In a room at the Sawgrass Marriott with his mother, Kultida, PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem, college teammate Notah Begay and several other close friends, Tiger Woods apologized and took responsibility for his behavior in a televised statement.

"I want to say to each of you, simply and directly, I am deeply sorry for my irresponsible and selfish behavior I engaged in," Woods read from a prepared speech. "I am the only person to blame. I stopped living by the core values that I was taught to believe in. I knew my actions were wrong, but I convinced myself that normal rules didn't apply. I never thought about who I was hurting. Instead, I thought only about myself."

Woods also revealed that he had spent 45 days from the end of December to early February undergoing therapy. Following the announcement, Woods returned to therapy.

In the months since the accident, several of his sponsors, including Procter & Gamble Co.'s Gillette and Swiss watch maker Tag Heuer, have distanced themselves and removed his image from campaigns. AT&T, Accenture and Gatorade have dropped Woods entirely. Nike and EA Sports continue to reiterate their support for Woods and his family.

"We've been supportive of Tiger since the story broke and we continue to be supportive," Nike brand president Charlie Denson told the Associated Press. "He's got issues he needs to deal with and he's dealing with them. We are looking forward to him getting back on the golf course."

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