(Removes erroneous reference to Tiger Woods Foundation in para 10 and makes clear O’Meara is working with Bluejack developers)
HOUSTON, Texas (Reuters) - By Bernie McGuire
Mark O’Meara believes his good friend Tiger Woods will compete in next week’s U.S. Masters.
Former world number one 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 PGA Tour.
His manager Mark Steinberg told Reuters earlier this week that the 39-year-old American had played 18 holes at Augusta as he continued to assess whether his game would be “tournament-ready” for the first major of the year.
“Deep down I think he will play,” said O’Meara at a media viewing of Woods’ first U.S.-designed golf course at Bluejack National, an hour’s drive from Houston.
“I hope he plays but I also understand he is doing what he needs to do for him. Everybody struggles in the game of golf and no-one is immune to struggling.
“Let’s face it, for a long time Tiger didn’t have to struggle and nobody dominated a sport like he did,” added O’Meara.
The 1998 Masters and 1998 British Open champion said 14-times major winner Woods always gets extra motivation when he is written off.
“He certainly dominated golf for quite a while but then a couple of years ago when I didn’t think he was swinging the club that well he won five tournaments in a season and was named ‘Player of the Year’,” said O’Meara.
“He’s the kind of athlete and individual that when people start to doubt him ... that is a good motivating factor for him to turn it around.”
The Houston native, who now plays on the Seniors Tour, is working with the developers of Bluejack National.
“I was around Tiger for the first 11 years when he came out on tour and he had a big impact on my life and my career,” said O’Meara.
“I may not have won the two majors I won in ‘98 if Tiger had not come into my life. He’s been a great friend.”
Editing by Tony Jimenez