“We’re pleased to hear that Tiger is to return to golf,” R&A spokesman Malcolm Booth said Tuesday. “Golf needs the world No. 1 to be playing.”
Woods has not yet entered to play at the British Open at St. Andrews, but has until May 27 to send in his entry form. Booth said it’s “normal that he hasn’t” entered yet.
“Typically, we would receive entries within a few weeks of that deadline,” Booth said, noting that several players from the “exempt field” of former champions have already sent in their forms.
Woods has not competed since he crashed his car into a tree outside his Florida home, setting off shocking revelations that he had been cheating on his wife.
Although his image has been hurt by the scandal, he is still favored to win the Masters by British bookmakers William Hill at 4-1. Phil Mickelson is second at 6-1 and Padraig Harrington is third at 16-1.
Hill also lists Woods as 1-20 that he will make the cut at Augusta National.
“All the major courses are Tiger’s favorites, so despite a terrible beginning we think that 2010 will end up being terrific for Tiger,” William Hill spokesman Rupert Adams said in a statement.
The Masters begins on April 8.
Woods has won 14 majors, including four Masters titles and three British Opens – two of them at St. Andrews, Scotland. The British Open will be played from July 15-18.
“We’d always want the world No. 1 to return to the Open Championship,” Booth said. “He could be the first to win three times at St. Andrews, and it would be back-to-back. No one’s ever won three at St. Andrews.”
English golfer Ross Fisher was driving to this week’s Transitions Championship in Florida when he heard the news of Woods’ plan to return at the Masters.
“It’s going to be very interesting now to see what happens at Augusta,” Fisher said. “But I thought he might have come back a bit earlier at either the Tavistock Cup or Bay Hill to get some golf in. Still, it’s going to be very exciting.”
Fisher said the atmosphere had not been the same at the recent Accenture and CA Championship without Woods in the field for the first two big-money tournaments of 2010.
“That’s golf, because there is always an extra element when you have the best golfer in the world taking part,” Fisher said. “But the best news now is that he is coming back.”
Darren Clarke concurred.
“It’s great to see him coming back again. It’s absolutely brilliant. We all want him back because he’s the best player on the planet,” said Clarke, who beat Woods over 36 holes to win the 2000 Accenture Matchplay and also recorded Ryder Cup victories against him at Brookline, The Belfry and K Club.
Clarke was surprised Woods won’t play a warm-up event but says there is no better judge of his game than the No. 1.
“I thought he might have played the Tavistock Cup next week, but obviously not,” Clarke said. “But you know, Tiger doesn’t make many wrong decisions when it comes to his golf, so I’m sure he’s doing what he thinks is best and Augusta will be fine.”