Masterful Move? Tiger uses major tournament for return to golf

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by JOHN BERMAN and RUSSELL GOLDMAN

WHAS11.com

Posted on March 16, 2010 at 11:19 AM

Updated Tuesday, Mar 16 at 5:34 PM

 (ABC News) - Tiger Woods will return to golf during the Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta, Ga., next month, ending a nearly five-month hiatus taken after a spiraling sex scandal and numerous allegations of marital infidelity.

"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 said in a statement.

"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," he said.

The Masters Tournament begins April 8.

Woods, who has been practicing with his swing coach, Hank Haney, last played competitive golf Nov. 15 at the Australian Open. A fortnight later, he took an indefinite leave of absence from golf after a bizarre car accident outside his Florida home Nov. 27 led to a whirlwind of allegations that he had cheated on his wife, Elin Nordegren, with multiple women.

In a public apology issued last month, Woods said he was undergoing therapy, presumably for sex addiction.

"I have undergone almost two months of inpatient 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," Woods said in today's statement.

The Masters is the most prestigious major, and it is also the most tightly controlled. The tournament makes the final decision on every reporter who wants access, which could help Woods avoid questions about his marriage and personal life.

Woods' once squeaky-clean image was tarnished by the scandal, causing him to lose several lucrative endorsement deals, but many have speculated that a successful return to golf could repair much of the damage.

Ex-Bush Aide Reportedly Working With Woods

The New York Post reported that Woods hired former Bush administration spokesman Ari Fleischer to help repair his image.

When asked by ABC News, Fleischer refused to confirm or deny he was working with Woods.

Fleischer helped former baseball player Mark McGwire choreograph his return to baseball, including finally admitting that he used steroids.

During his public apology last month, Woods said he does "plan to return to golf one day. I just don't know when that day will be."

"I don't rule out that it will be this year. When I do return, I need to make my behavior more respectful of the game," Woods said.

Tiger Woods' Caddie Speaks Out

One person who said he is eager to see Woods out on the golf course again is his caddie, Steve Williams.

"Obviously at some point in time I'll have a conversation with him, but right now is not that point in time. I'm fully supportive of him and I'd like to see him get back playing on the PGA tour. So that's my role right now," Williams told New Zealand's TV3 last week.

"Tiger's biggest asset is his mental strength and he'll need all his mental strength to get over this, no question about it," Williams said.

Williams told TV3 that he would never walk away from his "true friend" because you don't leave when someone needs you.

"I stand by Tiger as a friend. When I talk to him, I don't talk to him about what's happened. I talk about the future and what we are going to try and accomplish and how we're going to get over it. So, I think life is a case of, you're going to bounce from your mistakes and be a better person. So, let's hope that we can do that," Williams said. 

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