Masters may mark Woods' return

Palmer Invitational also in golfer's sights, reports say

March 12, 2010|By Teddy Greenstein | Tribune Newspapers

CHICAGO — — Remember when a somber Tiger Woods, at the end of his 13-minute choreographed apology three weeks ago, said he would return to golf "one day" and didn't rule out that it would be this year?

The New York Post reported that the "one day" would be in two weeks, at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, a traditional warm-up for the Masters.

That report was contradicted Thursday by the Associated Press, who wrote that two people with knowledge of Woods' plans say he won't return until the Masters - at the earliest.

The Bay Hill report made sense, given recent reports that Woods has been working with swing instructor Hank Haney during range sessions at Isleworth Country Club, his home course in Orlando, Fla.

Orlando is also the site of Bay Hill, a tournament Woods has won six times. Woods won't be booed if he can persuade Palmer, the uber-popular Bay Hill owner, to stand near him at all times.

The Post also reported that Woods has retained former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer to aid in his return to the PGA Tour and public spectrum. Fleischer road-mapped Mark McGwire's re-entry to baseball and has acted as a consultant for the Bowl Championship Series.

Adding to the likelihood of an imminent return, Mark O'Meara told the Golf Channel on Wednesday that he "wouldn't be surprised" if Woods played the Tavistock Cup on the Monday-Tuesday of Bay Hill week.

TMZ.com first reported last month that Woods would play the Tavistock, an invitation-only exhibition between 10-man teams from Isleworth and crosstown Lake Nona.

Woods has played in the past five Tavistocks, teaming with buddies such as O'Meara and John Cook. The Golf Channel has the TV rights to that event, which is sanctioned by the PGA Tour but generally limited to club members and corporate guests.

"It's been a rough road the last three or four months in Tiger's life and his family's life," O'Meara told The Golf Channel. "Golf is what Tiger does, and possibly part of the healing process is to get back at it."

Last year at Bay Hill, Woods made a 15-footer for birdie on No. 18 and celebrated with a back-pedaling fist pump. It was his first win after reconstructive knee surgery.

Since then he is 0-for-4 in major championships, and a sex scandal that threatened to end his marriage cost him several sponsorship deals.

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