Augusta - Tiger Woods arrived at Augusta
National on Tuesday, but only for the Masters Champions Dinner, while Jack
Nicklaus warned Woods would someday mount a late-career comeback to rival his
The golf legends gathered with fellow
Masters winners for their annual meal with Woods relegated to a visitor role,
unable to play six months after the second of two back operations.
"I'm doing better and making progress,
but unfortunately, still not physically ready to play. I look forward to being
out there again as soon as I can," Woods said in a Tuesday posting on his
"Despite not playing in the
tournament, I really wanted to attend this year's Champions Dinner. There are a
lot of close, long-time friends in that room."
Among those is Nicklaus, the 18-time major
champion whose record total has been a target for Woods, a 14-time major
winner, since boyhood.
Nicklaus spoke before the dinner and said
Woods, who turned 40 last December, will not only return but be a champion
"I don't think he's done,"
Nicklaus said. "I think Tiger's going to win more tournaments."
While Woods has sounded more optimistic
lately, he cast doubt on his own potential to return last December, saying,
"Pretty much everything beyond this will be gravy. For my 20 years out
here I think I've achieved a lot, and if that's all it entails, then I've had a
pretty good run. But I'm hoping that's not it."
Nicklaus, who won two major titles at age
40 in 1980 and became the oldest Masters champion in 1986 at age 46, said that
was Woods just downplaying expectations.
"That's probably an easier answer
than, 'I'm going to get back out there next week,' and really doing it,"
Nicklaus said. "He's probably tired of saying that. If he says the other,
then all of sudden everybody writes him off for a while.
"And then he's going to show up for
his '1980' and his '1986.' I think he'll show up for that a little bit."
Woods has not won a major title since the
2008 US Open. His 69 career PGA titles are three shy of Sam Snead's all-time
Nicklaus and Gary Player will hit the
ceremonial tee shots to open the Masters on Thursday without Arnold Palmer,
their fellow honorary starter, who said he would join them at the first tee but
not be swinging a club.
"We'll miss Arnold as far as hitting
the golf ball," Nicklaus said. "I have a sneaking suspicion, if
Arnold wants to, he will be welcome to hit a ball. Whether he will or not, I
don't know. We'll miss him on the first tee, but Gary and I will try to do the
best we can without him."