News24

Woods confirms return date

2009-02-20 07:51

Los Angeles - Tiger Woods will return to the PGA Tour following the longest layoff of his career by competing in next week's World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona.

"I am now ready to play again," Woods said on Thursday. "Elin and our new son Charlie are doing great.

"I've enjoyed my time at home with the family and appreciate everyone's support and kind wishes."

The tournament will be the 14-time major winners' first event since an epic US Open victory last June at Torrey Pines. Woods made the announcement on his website, www.tigerwoods.com.

Eight days after his US Open triumph Woods underwent season-ending surgery to reconstruct the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

Woods also had stress fractures in his left tibia, injuries that affected him during his gritty US Open win, in which he needed 91 holes to defeat Rocco Mediate.

Mediate said Woods' return is a blessing.

"He's the man. He is the king," said Mediate, while competing Thursday at the Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles. "And I will guarantee you he wins that tournament next week.

"You think he is coming out not going to give 180 000 percent. He is not coming out to say 'let's see how I do'. He is still Tiger."

The timing for Woods' return was affected by several factors and not just the rehab on his knee. Woods' wife Elin just gave birth to their second child Charlie Axel on February 8.

"We received confirmation today that Tiger Woods has committed to play in next week's Accenture Match Play Championship in Tucson, Ariz." PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem said on Thursday. "We are delighted that Tiger is returning to competition and look forward to watching him compete next week."

Woods will be included in the 64-player field which begins play February 25 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club course in Marana, Arizona.

Woods has won the Accenture Match Play Championship three times, including last year when he beat Stewart Cink 8 and 7 in the 36-hole championship match. Of his nine starts at the Accenture Match Play Championship, he has seven top 10s.

Woods is scheduled to face Brendan Jones in the opening round on Wednesday unless someone withdraws from the event.

World No 64 Jones played in his first Accenture Match Play Championship last year and lost to Australian compatriot Adam Scott 2 and 1 in the first round.

Woods trails only Jack Nicklaus (18) with his 14 major victories. He is also third overall on the PGA Tour win list with 65 victories. Only Sam Snead (82) and Nicklaus (73) have more.

Woods won four times in his six starts on the Tour in 2008 and placed second in The Masters. He also won the PGA European Tour's Dubai Desert Classic.

Woods did not finish lower than fifth in the half dozen starts last season - which was also halted for some time by April 15 arthroscopic surgery on the same knee.

Phil Mickelson shot the best round in Los Angeles on Thursday, an eight-under 63, but it was quickly overshadowed by Woods' comeback announcement.

"Of course it is not going to mean anything," Mediate said of Mickelson's stellar round. "Everyone has been waiting, waiting, waiting for this."

Woods's caddie Steve Williams had hinted to a New Zealand television station on Wednesday that Woods was close to announcing his return.

"He's probably 95 percent of the way there," Williams told Television New Zealand. "He was waiting for the birth of his second child which just came last week so he's ready to go. He just needs a little bit more walking. He hasn't been able to walk too well.

"He definitely wants to play a couple of tournaments before Augusta."

Germany's Alex Cejka said you can't put a price tag on what it means to the tour's image and economics to have Woods back in the fold.

"It is necessary for Tiger to come back for the television," said Cejka. "We all know when Tiger is in the field the crowds go wild. You look around here today. The galleries would be much bigger on a Thursday if Tiger was here."

AFP