Orlando - Tiger Woods needs to regain his early career confidence if he is to find his way back to the pinnacle of golf, US legend Arnold Palmer said on Wednesday, a few weeks ahead of the Masters where Woods hopes to stage his return to the game.
Speaking on the eve of the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, Palmer said 14-time major champion Woods needs practice to rebuild that confidence.
Palmer said he supported Woods' decision to take a break from competition, even though that means Woods won't be teeing it up this week at Bay Hill, where he has won eight times.
Woods took himself out of competition last month to improve his game, and time is running out for a return to form before the Masters next month.
Palmer said he appreciated the fact that Woods called him to explain why he wouldn't be there.
"First of all, he said, 'Arnold, you know, I can't think of anything that I'd rather do than be there to play' and then he explained that he didn't feel like his game was ready," Palmer said on Wednesday of his brief talk with Woods.
"He really wanted to work on it and get it ready to play and I don't blame him. I think if I were in his position I would probably have said somewhat similar things.
" ... He simply said that he just couldn't present himself ready to play when he isn't, and he's going to work on his game and get through it."
Palmer said he "didn't say much of anything" during the call, but the seven-time major champion was asked what advice he would offer Woods.
"There's only one thing I can say and that's practice, and confidence," Palmer said.
"He has to regain the confidence he had when he was starting out and that was what made him what he is. And that's the way he'll get it back.
"And this is an opinion that I haven't even given to anybody, and that is he should do what he thinks he should do with his game. I think he should find a coach that he has confidence in and go work on his game."
Woods hasn't played since back stiffness prompted him to withdraw mid-round from the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in early February.
Prior to that he missed the cut at the Phoenix Open, and on February 11 the 39-year-old former world number one announced he would take a break from competition to get his game in shape.
Despite his stated aim of teeing it up at Augusta National when the Masters starts on April 9, Woods' hopes for the first major of the year look increasingly dim.
Woods has won the Masters four times, but has never donned a green jacket without first winning a tournament earlier that season.
He could opt to play a tune-up event in either San Antonio or Houston before the Masters, or even in both.
He hasn't played the San Antonio event since his rookie year and has never played in Houston.
While Woods' status for the Masters is anyone's guess, Palmer says he expects to be there.
Palmer, 85, is a four-time winner of the Masters and has been part of the group of former champions making the ceremonial opening tee-off since 2007.
Despite dislocating his shoulder in a fall in December, Palmer hopes to be in that role next month, and plans to start hitting golf balls soon in preparation.
"I have every intention of hitting the first drive at Augusta," Palmer said.