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Tiger Woods linked with February return to golf


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Tiger Woods is reportedly targeting a return to golf at the WGC Match Play Championship in Arizona on 17 February.

World number one Woods, 34, who has won 14 majors, has not appeared in public since crashing his car last November and later admitting to "infidelity".

"Rumours of his return surfaced in Australia and were initially greeted with scepticism, but persist," said BBC golf correspondent Iain Carter.

"It would be a surprise but a reliable source says he will play in Arizona."

Woods, announced on 12 December 2009 that he was taking an indefinite break from playing golf to tackle problems in his private life.

His last tournament was the Australian Masters in Melbourne, which he won on 15 November. The crash happened 12 days later.

The Melbourne Herald Sun newspaper reports that his management team has approached organisers about the logistics of playing at the WGC event at Dove Mountain in Arizona.

But Carter said: "It remains hard to believe that Woods, who has not appeared in public since crashing his car outside his home, would choose to return at the Match Play.

"He admitted infidelity and apologised to his family for 'transgressions' and has been in hiding ever since.

The top 64 players automatically qualify for the Match Play event and competitors have until 12 February to notify organisers of any withdrawal.

But any comeback by Woods would need extra planning because of the intense media interest in him.

"Although he has been on 'indefinite leave' from the game he has only missed one tournament that he would routinely play, last week's PGA Tour stop in San Diego," added Carter.

"The Matchplay is sponsored by Accenture, one of the companies that ended sponsorship deals with Woods in the wake of his fall from grace.

"It would be unlike Woods to play in a tournament backed by a sponsor that had embarrassingly ditched him.

"But, given this background, to return in Arizona could send a powerful message that he intends to be a changed man.

"The tournament is unique on the golfing calendar because it is a knockout event culminating in a 36-hole final. Woods made his return from knee surgery there last year and has won it three times."

On Thursday, six-time major winner Sir Nick Faldo told the BBC that returning to tournament golf would prove Woods' "saviour".

"I'd have thought he'd be dying to get back, I don't believe he'll give up the opportunity to play in the majors," he said.

Meanwhile, world number two Phil Mickelson urged Woods to come back to the PGA Tour, saying "the game of golf needs him".

US golf legend Jack Nicklaus said Woods would find it harder to break his record of 18 majors if he does not compete this year.

And on Wednesday five-time Open champion Tom Watson urged Woods to "show some humility" when he does finally choose to return.

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