x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Woods back at the range

Less than a fortnight after Tiger Woods's much-publicised public apology, the world's No 1 golfer is reportedly playing the game again no word on return yet.

Less than a fortnight after Tiger Woods's much-publicised public apology, spoon-fed to a hand-picked audience of forgiving family and sympathetic associates, the world's No 1 golfer is reportedly playing the game again. However, revelations that Woods is shaking the cobwebs off his rusty swing at the Isleworth Country Club driving range in Florida does not mean he will immediately return to the PGA Tour.

Woods said on February 19 to "not knowing" when he would return to the game. Considering he has already missed three tournaments he routinely contests every early-season since taking an indefinite leave of absence from golf in December following an admission of extra-marital affairs, the US Masters, which starts on April 8, has been touted as the event in which he will make his return. He has already missed the San Diego Open at Torrey Pines, the WGC-Match Play Championship in Arizona and the Dubai Desert Classic.

Woods returned to his Florida home last weekend after spending the previous week in counselling sessions with his wife Elin in an Arizona clinic. "He is still working on his marriage and they're working hard at it," said a source close to Woods, who has won 14 majors. "He is hitting some balls and working out." At long last, the media tide which ruthlessly dissected Woods's 13-and-half-minute televised mea culpa - which many cynics suggested was manufactured - has started to ebb.

So too, it appears, has the disgraced player's desire to self- impose his absence from competition. Indeed, there is nothing coincidental about Woods's return to practice, or his selection of the venue. The Woods's Isleworth home, the scene of the November 27 car crash which spawned the tales of the golfer's marital infidelity, is next to the exclusive Country Club. And the defending Masters champion Angel Cabrera said on Tuesday that he cannot wait to play against Woods again.

"Tiger is the best. I want him to be back," said the Argentine. "When he's there he makes a big difference [and] a special tournament." The 34-year-old player's absence, however, would not ruin the Augusta showpiece, according to Cabrera. "It's going to be something special. I want him to be back but the Masters will always be the Masters, with or without Tiger," he added. Woods's misdemeanours continue to fuel the negative publicity which are battering his reputation. His break from the game and the resulting publicity storm it has created have forced more and more of his financial allies to desert him, fearing the repercussions to their brands.

On Friday, Gatorade joined the list of sponsors to drop Woods, following in the footsteps of consulting firm Accenture and the US telecoms giant AT&T, while the sporting goods manufacturer Nike reiterated their support for him. @Email:emegson@thenational.ae