Los Angeles: Tiger Woods will play the Masters, making his return to tournament golf at the first major championship of the year next week. “I’m playing the Masters,” Woods said Friday in a statement posted on his website.

The announcement followed weeks of speculation as to whether Woods would feel his game was up to Augusta National. He hasn’t played in a tournament since withdrawing at Torrey Pines on February 5 with back pain.

That followed a dismal showing at the Phoenix Open, and the 14-time major champion announced the
following week that he was taking an indefinite break until he could improve his game to a competitive level.

High hopes
Woods said all along that he hoped to play the Masters, and anticipation that he would indeed tee it up next Thursday intensified when he practiced at the famed course this week.

“It’s obviously very important to me and I want to be there,” Woods said of a tournament he has won four times.

“I’ve worked a lot on my game and I’m looking forward to competing,” Woods said. “I’m excited to get to Augusta and I appreciate everyone’s support.” The 39-year-old American, who claimed the last of his 14 major titles at the 2008 US Open, will be coming off his longest layup before a major since the 2010 Masters.

He finished equal fourth that year after five months off in the wake of his infamous sex scandal.