Tiger Woods has confirmed he will return from self-imposed exile at the Masters on April 8, declaring "Augusta is where I need to be". The world No 1 has not played since last year following unsavoury revelations regarding his private life, but yesterday confirmed his comeback.
"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 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." Woods, a 14-time major winner, is chasing Jack Nicklaus's record of 18 major titles, but will compete in Georgia without having played a competitive round since winning the Australian Masters in Melbourne on November 15.
Rumours regarding his return had intensified earlier this week after Hank Haney, his coach, went to the player's home in Florida. "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, before adding that his personal redemption is still a long way off. "I have undergone almost two months of in-patient 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." Bill Payne, the Augusta National chairman, said in a statement released shortly afterwards that Woods has the club's full backing. "We support Tiger's decision to return to competitive golf beginning at this year's Masters Tournament," he said. "Additionally, we support and encourage his stated commitment to continue the significant work required to rebuild his personal and professional life."