TIGER WOODS ended weeks of intense speculation last night when he announced that he'll tee up at next week's US Masters.
"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.
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 played splendidly 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.
Harrington was six shy of the 36-hole leader Phil Mickelson as the US icon followed Thursday's 66 with a fine 67.
"It was a nice day's golf. I didn't get myself in any trouble as I hit plenty of greens," said the Irishman. "I wanted this week was to practise my pace putting and I'd a lot of long putts today. That's good going to Augusta."
Darren Clarke hardly got the pre-Masters boost he'd hoped for. The Ryder Cup captain was eight outside the projected cut on four-over following a 77.
With Tiger opting in for Augusta and Phil leading in Texas, it's like the good old days!
Shell Houston Open, Live, Sky Sports 4, 6pm
ANA Inspiration, LPGA Major, Live, Sky Sports 4, 11pm