By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 17, 2010;
Tiger Woods, who hasn't played golf in public since a Thanksgiving-night car accident unleashed a slew of revelations of marital infidelities that led him to take a leave of absence from the game, announced Tuesday he will return at the Masters, the season's first major championship.
The announcement, made in a statement released through his public relations staff, means Woods's self-imposed exile lasted roughly five months, and that his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus's record of 18 major titles will not be interrupted by his leave. The Masters begins April 8 in Augusta, Ga.
"The Masters is where I won my first major and I view this tournament with great respect," Woods said in his statement. "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."
Woods, 34, thus will forfeit any preparation for the major championships, three of which will be staged on courses on which he has won -- the Masters at Augusta National, the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach and the British Open at St. Andrews. Woods could have also returned at the Arnold Palmer Invitational on March 25-28 in Orlando, near his home in Windermere, Fla., a tournament he has won six times.
But the Masters, which is tightly controlled by the members of Augusta National Golf Club, might offer Woods the most privacy as he makes a return that will be one of the most closely followed sports stories in years. The club traditionally does not issue media credentials to outlets that do not historically cover the event, meaning tabloids and celebrity magazines -- publications that have ferociously followed Woods's indiscretions and the future of his relationship with his wife, Elin -- will almost certainly be unable to question Woods.
Woods has appeared in public only once since the revelations of apparently rampant infidelity, last month during an orchestrated, 13 1/2 -minute address from PGA Tour headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., that was carried live on network television in the United States and around the world. He admitted then to his affairs and said he was in counseling, but he did not take questions.
"I have undergone almost two months of inpatient therapy and I am continuing my treatment," Woods said. "Although I'm returning to competition, I still have a lot of work to do in my personal life."
Woods has been seen working on his game on his home course in the Orlando-area resort community of Isleworth, and his return has been anticipated for weeks. He has won 14 majors, and this season has been seen as a key one if he is going to eventually catch and surpass Nicklaus. But he said in his statement that he decided to return at the Masters because he would not be competitively ready to play in the two spots that seemed most likely to fit his schedule -- the exhibition Tavistock Cup, which is held March 22-23 at Isleworth, and at Palmer's tournament at nearby Bay Hill.
"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," Woods said. "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."