Tiger Woods will end his self-imposed "indefinite break" from golf by making his long-awaited return to the game on the hallowed grounds of Augusta National Golf Club, home of The Masters.
"The Masters is where I won my first major and I view this tournament with great respect," Woods said Tuesday in a statement. "After a long and necessary time away from the game, I feel like I'm ready to start my season at Augusta. 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."
Roars are expected to echo through the Georgia pines and above the multihued azaleas that frame the revered course when the world No. 1 plays for the first time this year. The tournament in Augusta, Ga., is the first major championship of the season and will be Woods' first since he ran his SUV over a fire hydrant and into a tree in the wee hours of Nov. 27 in front of his suburban Orlando estate. The single-car accident turned his private life into public property as revelations of his extramarital affairs splashed across front pages of newspapers and tabloids around the world.
The announcement ends weeks of speculation about Woods and his return to professional golf. Woods last played in November when he won the Australian Masters, and his last competitive appearance in the U.S. came at the Presidents Cup in October in San Francisco.
In his statement, Woods said he regrets not being able to play in the Tavistock Cup and the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Since the November accident, Woods has made just one public appearance — on Feb. 19 at the tightly controlled gathering from the clubhouse at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., near the PGA Tour's headquarters. Woods, who did not take questions, addressed about 40 people who were in the room, including his mother. His wife, Elin, was not present.
Woods, 34, said he was working to salvage his marriage with his wife, Elin, 29, and to be a better father to their two small children.
"I have undergone almost two months of inpatient therapy and I am continuing my treatment," Woods said. "Although I'm returning to competition, I still have a lot of work to do in my personal life.
"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."
The Masters and the serene setting of Augusta National is a logical place for Woods to return. Augusta National, one of the most exclusive private golf clubs in the world, has a large security force that easily can control large crowds and all access and exit points. The tournament's issuance of media credentials follows rigid standards. And the galleries are well-informed and well-behaved.
Woods also should be comfortable on one of his favorite golf courses. He has won The Masters four times, his first being his record-shattering, cultural shifting win in 1997 when he became the first African-American to win a green jacket and the first to win a major championship. He also won green jackets in 2001, 2002 and 2005. In the past four years, he finished in a tie for third in 2006, in a tie for second in 2007, second in 2008, and in a tie for sixth last year.