Tiger Woods begins comeback at Augusta
In front of the world’s media, Tiger Woods, who looked a little more portly than usual, spent around half an hour on the practice range at Augusta, next to British golfer Paul Casey.
His appearance this week at the Masters —one of the biggest tournaments on the PGA tour will be his first competitive game since revelations he had a string of extra-marital affairs emerged.
More than a dozen women have come forward claiming the sports star slept with them following a car crash that Woods was involved in last November, which led to the World No 1’s spectacular fall from grace.
Besides almost losing his wife, the sex scandal is also said to have cost him, sponsors and the game of golf as much as £7.8bn.
Tonight, Woods, who has been undergoing therapy at a clinic in Mississippi, is expected to hold a press conference to speak about his comeback.
It is also expected he will inevitably have to field questions about the scandal from the 180 specially accredited journalists who have been approved for the conference.
Woods announced he was taking a break from the sport after the scandal surrounding his private life erupted late last year.
He crashed his car into a fire hydrant and a tree near his Florida home on November 27, an incident that led to a storm of publicity about his private life.
In February, he admitted being unfaithful to his wife Elin while making a tearful public apology.
The world number one's last tournament appearance was on November 15 when he won the Australian Masters.
This week the father-of-two will be seeking to win his fifth Masters title.
It was at this very tournament in 1997 that a 21-year-old Woods burst on to the golf scene.
Since then the golfer, who was recently named Athlete of the Decade by members of the Associated Press, has continued to make history.
He has won 14 majors overall — four short of the record held by Jack Nicklaus — and was runner-up in six other majors. He has also won 14 times out of 27 appearances in the World Golf Championships.
Adding to the list of achievements, the sports star also finished the decade with $81,547,410 in earnings from his PGA Tour events, an average of $482,529 per tournament.
Preparations for the event at Augusta this week have been meticulous.
An army of workers were busy painting the green kerbs near the clubhouse. More were planting clutches of yellow pansies in the shape of America in the flower bed at the end of Magnolia Lane.
The much-anticipated return of Woods has led to ticket touts doing brisk business on roads around the Augusta site, with prices for practice rounds reaching up to £200 with the expectation that tournament tickets will go for £500.
Paul Casey, the UK’s top ranked player, said he was surprised but pleased to see Woods at the practice range.
“I was just hitting a few balls and suddenly he was behind me,” said Casey, who was intent on giving his shoulder a good workout after a slight strain scuppered his defence of the Shell Houston title at the weekend.
Casey had a quick word with Woods, although he kept the content of their conversation private.