Wednesday 7 December 2016

Tiger takes the heat off Rory as he opts to play in Masters

Karl MacGinty

Published 04/04/2015 | 02:30

TIGER WOODS ended weeks of intense speculation last night when he announced that he'll tee up at next week's US Masters.

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"I'm playing in the Masters," Woods tweeted, then confirmed on his website: "It's obviously very important to me and I want to be there. "I've worked a lot on my game and I'm looking forward to competing. I'm excited to get to Augusta and I appreciate everyone's support," he added.

This is good news for Rory McIlroy as Tiger's presence will deflect some of the spotlight from the 25-year-old Ulsterman's bid to complete his 'Career Grand Slam'.

Thursday's opening round at Augusta National will be his first competitive golf in 63 days since he limped off the golf course just 11 holes into the Farmers Open at Torrey Pines on February 5.

Woods was fourth at the 2010 Masters after nearly five months off following the crash outside his home the previous November and subsequent scandal, but his game wasn't as deep in crisis then.

After abject performances at his own Hero World Challenge in December and the Phoenix Open in January, where he missed the cut after a career worst 82 on Friday, Tiger then was hampered by back spasms in San Diego.

Of more concern, however, was an alarming dose of the chip-yips. Tiger vowed not to return to competitive golf until capable of competing on Tour.

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After reputedly shooting 74, including five birdies and a number of indifferent chips, at Augusta on Tuesday, Woods turned up at the Masters venue once again yesterday.

He broke a run of 19 straight Masters appearances last April after back surgery on March 31.

Meanwhile, rejuvenated by last month's bolt out of the blue at The Honda and buoyed by his return next week to Augusta, Padraig Harrington was playing like a man on a mission yesterday.

He hit 17 of 18 greens at Redstone on his way to a second round of four-under 68 that sent him into the weekend at the Shell Houston Open on five-under par.

That was five shy of the early clubhouse lead, held on 10-under by Grahan DeLaet following a second round 67 by the Canadian.

"It was a nice day's golf. I didn't get myself in any trouble as I hit plenty of greens," said Harrington. "One thing I wanted to do this week was practise my pace putting and I'd a lot of long putts today, so that sort of stuff is good going to Augusta."

On the course, Phil Mickelson was taking advantage of sublime afternoon conditions as he played 15 holes in six-under and sped to 12-under for the tournament. Tiger back for the Masters and Phil leading - just like old times!

Shell Houston Open, Live, Sky Sports 4, 6pm

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