x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

No signs of a Woods comeback

With the US Masters a month away, the world of golf is still unsure of the date Tiger Woods will return to the sport.

Fans wonder when Tiger Woods, left, will step out to play.
Fans wonder when Tiger Woods, left, will step out to play.

We are now exactly one month away from the curtain going up for the first major of the golfing year but we are no nearer a confirmed date for the return of the sport's main attraction. Tiger Woods has proved during his career that he is capable of achieving almost anything on the golf course, but surely winning the US Masters for a fifth time is beyond even his extraordinary talents if he turns up at Augusta National without having hit a ball in anger since his private life fell apart nearly four months ago.

The Woods watchers waited over the weekend for the world No 1 to register for this week's important WGC tournament at Doral in Miami, which is a short drive from his Florida home one of his favourite venues, having won there six times previously. They waited in vain for that first key signal that he is finally ready to face the music after his botched attempt to say sorry, sorry and sorry again for his serial extra marital misdemeanours.

The attention will now turn to the Arnold Palmer Invitational, a title Woods holds after completing his rehabilitation from knee surgery to record a remarkable triumph on another of his neighbouring courses in Orlando. If Woods fails to register for that event, which starts on March 25, or the alternative Tavistock Cup also in Florida two days earlier, then the bandwagon that has been gathering momentum regarding a return will grind to a halt.

Doubts will resurface about his Masters participation and with it his desire to fulfil his ambition to match and surpass Jack Nicklaus's record haul of 18 majors. It is nearly two years since a hobbling Woods captured his 14th, and last, major - the 2008 US Open. Roughly half of that time has been spent inactive from the sport that has made him one of the world's most famous personalities. Sympathy will be minimal when he bids to revive a phenomenal career - assuming that he still intends to do so.

That rambling apology for his marital infidelity probably did more harm than good in what was a carefully orchestrated attempt to restore a reputation that, until November, had been untarnished. Fellow professionals are unlikely to share the view of television chiefs and sponsors that the game is not the same without Woods. Despite that increased level of hostility and growing indifference to his presence in draws for the key events on the calendar, he has been a big miss during his exile and it is high time he returns.

wjohnson@thenational.ae