(Reuters) - The lingering ‘will he play/won’t he play?’ scenario with Tiger Woods ahead of next week’s Masters entered a new phase on Tuesday when the former world number one played a practice round at Augusta National.
Woods’ manager Mark Steinberg told Reuters that Woods had played 18 holes at the iconic Masters venue as he continued to assess whether his game would be “tournament-ready” for the first major of the year.
However, Steinberg did not say whether Woods was any closer to reaching a decision about competing this year at the Masters, where he is a four-times champion.
Woods, whose ranking has plummeted to a mind-boggling 104th, has struggled badly for form and fitness this season, and has played only twice on the 2014-15 PGA Tour.
He posted the highest score of his professional career, an 11-over-par 82, to miss the cut at the Phoenix Open in January, and withdrew from the Farmers Insurance Open early last month after 11 holes because of tightness in his back.
Woods, who claimed the most recent of his 14 major titles at the 2008 U.S. Open, said he would not return to the PGA Tour until his game was “tournament-ready” and many pundits believe he is suffering from the chipping ‘yips’.
“I enter a tournament to compete at the highest level, and when I think I‘m ready, I’ll be back,” Woods wrote on his website. “I hope to be ready for the Masters.”
If Woods does indeed have the yips, an involuntary movement of the muscles, Augusta National would be one of the most challenging venues for him to make a PGA Tour comeback because of its slick, heavily contoured greens.
One thing in Woods’ favor is his huge comfort factor at Augusta National where in 2010 he tied for fourth at the Masters after not playing competitive golf for five months.
He took an indefinite break from the game in late 2009, as his private life spectacularly unraveled, to try to repair his marriage amid revelations about his extra-marital affairs.
“He knows his way around the Augusta,” Northern Irish world number Rory McIlroy said earlier this month. “If he feels ready to play and he does play then he knows what to do when there.”
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Rancho Mirage, California; Editing by Frank Pingue