While Tiger Woods' plans for the Masters remain a mystery, one thing is clear: If Woods plays in the season's first major, he will do so without the benefit of a warm-up start.
Friday marked the entry deadline for the Shell Houston Open, and tournament director Steve Timms confirmed to GolfChannel.com that Woods will not be among next week's field at the Golf Club of Houston. While participants at this week's Valero Texas Open have until 30 minutes after their second round to commit to next week's event, other players had to commit by 5 p.m. Friday.
That deadline came and went without an announcement from Woods, who last played at the Farmers Insurance Open in February, withdrawing after just 11 holes, and who announced on Feb. 11 that he would be taking a break from competitive golf to get his game "tournament-ready." Two weeks ago, he confirmed in a post to his site that he would not be participating in the Arnold Palmer Invitational, an event he had won eight times prior.
"I've put a lot of time and work on my game and I'm making strides, but like I've said, I won't return to the PGA Tour until my game is tournament-ready and I can compete at the highest level," Woods wrote on March 13. "I hope to be ready for the Masters, and I will continue to work hard preparing for Augusta."
Woods' decision not to play in Houston isn't entirely surprising considering the fact that he has never before teed it up in the event. He missed the Masters last year for the first time as a professional, and if he is to return to Augusta National, he would do so without playing competitively in nine weeks.
The only prior time when Woods played the Masters after such a layoff was in 2010, when he made his first start in more than five months at Augusta following an off-course scandal. He went on to tie for fourth.