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Begay says Tiger could be back by next month

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After Tiger Woods pulled out of the Masters with a nagging back injury, it was anyone's guess when the 14-time major champ would tee it up next.

But according to Woods' close friend, Golf Channel analyst Notah Begay, it could be as soon as next month after The Players Championship, which is scheduled for May 11-14.

Begay told "The Rich Eisen Show" on Friday that although Woods wasn't ready for Augusta National, the year's second major, the U.S. Open at Erin Hills, is very much in play, provided he could get a start or two under his belt beforehand.

"[The Masters] probably wouldn't have been the best place for Tiger to start the year out after this most recent setback, and I think we should probably look, maybe something just after The Players Championship," Begay said.

"Oh, [the U.S. Open] a definite possibility," he added. "That's probably the event that's circled on his calendar, but he's got to at least get one or two starts in before that to see where his body, where his game's at and if he can hit the shots he wants to hit."

Tiger's last competitive round came at the Dubai Desert Classic in February, when he withdrew with back spasms after an opening 77.

Possible U.S. Open tune-ups after The Players include the AT&T Byron Nelson the Dean & DeLuca at Colonial Country Club, the Memorial and the FedEx St. Jude Classic.