Tiger Woods confirms he’ll return for the Masters

As first reported by FOXSports.com last week, Tiger Woods has confirmed he will return to competitive golf at the Masters.

“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 released Tuesday morning.

“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.”

The Masters begins April 8.

Woods, who has won the Masters four times, the last time in 2005, hasn’t played since November 15 in Australia. He became entangled in a sex scandal after crashing his SUV into a fire hydrant outside his Orlando home on the night of Thanksgiving. More than a dozen women came forward to allege affairs with the world’s No. 1 golfer.

He attended an inpatient clinic in Mississippi to rehabilitate for an addiction to sex and spent another week in rehab in Arizona.

“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,” he said.

“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 had been rumored to be making his comeback at either the made-for-TV Tavistock Cup, which will be played next Monday and Tuesday, or the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, also in Orlando.

“I called both Joe Lewis and Arnold Palmer and expressed my regrets for not attending the Tavistock Cup and the Arnold Palmer Invitational,” he said.

“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.”

Billy Payne, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament, said the club not only supported Woods’ decision to make his return there, but "additionally, we support and encourage his stated commitment to continue the significant work required to rebuild his personal and professional life."

Already the major with the highest TV ratings, this Masters could be the biggest yet.

"Obviously, the ratings will be off the chart," player Heath Slocum said. "It will be interesting to watch — not only the reaction from him, but from the fans, the media, the players. I would venture to say he might be nervous."

Asked about a Woods return last week, CBS Sports president Sean McManus also thought viewership would be huge: "My only prediction is when he comes back, it will be, other than the Obama inauguration, one of if not the biggest media spectacle in recent memory."

Woods twice has come into a major after a long layoff without playing, with mixed results — he missed the cut at Winged Foot for the 2006 U.S. Open after his father died, and he won the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines while playing on a shattered left knee.

Woods is a four-time Masters champion, although he has not won at Augusta National, his longest drought.

In some respects, the Masters makes sense for golf’s No. 1 player to return. Media credentials are limited regardless of who’s playing or what’s in the news, and Augusta National has more control of its tickets than any other golf tournament.

Those with season badges risk losing them if they violate policies, or are caught selling them.

Woods has been the biggest draw at the Masters ever since he became its youngest champion at 21 in 1997, when he broke the tournament scoring record with a 12-shot victory.

That mostly likely won’t compare to this year.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.