Golf world in a tizzy as Woods announces Augusta return

Major championships have always been a special focus, says US ace

Golf world in a tizzy as Woods announces Augusta return

Tiger Woods

The world number one has not competed since his victory at the Australian Masters on Nov 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, 34, said in a statement on Tuesday as he announced his hotly anticipated return to the PGA Tour.  "After a long and necessary time away from the game, I feel like I'm ready to start my season at Augusta."

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

"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," he said. The return of Woods to the genteel surrounds of Augusta National, where he last triumphed in 2005, will be one of the biggest sporting events of the year.

Asked whether any extra contingency plans would be made, a Masters official said: "We've recently learned of this ourselves so I'll be better equipped to answer those specifics some time soon."

Despite not having hit a ball in competition for four months, Woods has already been made a firm favourite to win the April 8-11 Masters with British bookmakers William Hill installing him at 4-1.

"If he wins the Masters, it will not be a surprise to me," said American Rocco Mediate, who was beaten by Woods in a 19-hole playoff for the 2008 US Open where the world number one played with a double stress fracture in his left shinbone.

Former US Open champion Jim Furyk added: "You never bet against him. He seems to be able to take a bunch of time off and pop right up there and be the same old guy."
Sweden's Robert Karlsson, competing at this week's Tampa Bay Championship, expressed surprise that Woods was not playing a warm-up event before the Masters. "I would have played at least once before Augusta," Karlsson said. "But he's very, very precise and ... he usually has a plan on what he's doing." Woods trails only Jack Nicklaus, who has 18 titles, in the all-time major standings.

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