Woods announces return to competition at Masters

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Tiger Woods will make his much-anticipated return at next week’s Masters.

The former world No. 1 ended the nonstop speculation by announcing Friday that he will be a part of the 98-man field in the season's first major.

"I'm playing in the Masters. It's obviously very important to me, and I want to be there," Woods said on his website, tigerwoods.com. "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."

Woods was practicing at Augusta National Friday morning, Golf Channel first reported.

Buzz of a return heightened Tuesday when Woods' agent, Mark Steinberg, confirmed that Woods played 18 holes at Augusta, but that no decision on playing the Masters had been made.

The Masters is always massively hyped, but this year the anticipation seems to have been ratcheted up a notch, with Rory McIlroy’s bid for the career Grand Slam and Bubba Watson’s attempt to become the fourth repeat winner. Put the four-time Masters winner back into the mix, and the year’s first major just got even more intriguing.

Woods hasn’t played since Feb. 5, when he withdrew after 11 holes at the Farmers Insurance Open because of a tight back. That followed a missed cut at the Phoenix Open, where he bungled numerous short shots and carded an 82, his highest score as a pro.

Woods announced a week after the Torrey Pines disaster that he was taking an indefinite break from golf, saying that his game wasn’t up to his lofty standards. He skipped the Arnold Palmer Invitational, a tournament he’d won eight times, and tumbled outside the top 100 in the world ranking for the first time since September1996.

The speculation about Woods’ status ramped up last week when close friend Notah Begay III told 120Sports.com that Woods was “50-50” for the year’s first major.

Woods said he’d only return if he felt like he could compete and win. Choosing to return on the sport’s biggest stage is a grand entrance, indeed.