Tiger Woods has no plans to return to competitive golf at the Accenture World Match Play championship in two weeks.
“As far as I know (Woods’ return) will not be at the Match Play,“ a source close to Woods told FOXSports.com Friday. A second insider said he had no direct knowledge of when Woods would make his comeback but that his “gut feeling” was that it would not be in Arizona.
A report in an Australian tabloid, Melbourne’s Herald-Sun, citing “whispers,” said Woods was preparing to return at the tournament, held at the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain course outside of Tucson on February 17-21.
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A PGA Tour spokesman called the report “speculation” and both tournament officials and an Accenture spokesman said they had not received any indication that Woods would be in the field.
Woods, a three-time winner of the Match Play, made his comeback after an almost nine-month layoff from reconstructive knee surgery last year at Dove Mountain.
But at the time, he was obligated to Accenture, one of his major sponsors and also the title sponsor of the tournament.
However, the global consulting giant quickly dropped Woods as its spokesman after his fall from grace late last year. The 34-year-old world no. 1 became embroiled in a nightmarish sex scandal, with more than a dozen women alleging affairs, and has not been seen in public since Thanksgiving. Woods issued a statement on his website which acknowledged “infidelities” and said that he’d be taking an indefinite leave from golf.
Another reason to doubt a return to the Match Play is that Woods isn’t fond of the Jack Nicklaus-designed Dove Mountain course. After losing in the second round last year to Tim Clark, he was harshly critical of the greens.
It’s also unlikely Woods is physically, much less emotionally, ready to return to tournament golf. He‘s reportedly been in a Mississippi clinic confronting his sexual urges since early January. The therapy runs six weeks, which would leave him perhaps a week to prepare for the Match Play — not enough time for a player renowned for his painstaking preparation.
Neither of the two sources who spoke to FOXSports.com offered a timetable for a return. Initially, some believed Woods, who was left devastated by the public airing of his infidelities and their impact on his marriage, could skip the entire season.
But two of this year’s majors, the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach and the British Open at St. Andrews, are on courses he loves.
He’s lifted the trophy all three times he’s played a major on those courses as a professional. When put together with the four green jackets he’s won at Augusta National, the three venues account for half of Woods’ career haul of 14 majors.
“I just can’t see him missing Pebble and St. Andrews,” said one of the sources.
The source said not playing a Masters wouldn’t be as devastating because it’s at the same venue each year.
If Woods were to come back before the Masters, which he’s played every year since 1995, it’s likely the site would be Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Invitational, another of his favorite courses. Woods has won there won six times, including four in a row beginning in 2000.
The tournament, which will be played in the last week of March, has the added benefit of being a short drive from Woods‘ Orlando area home.