In Brief

Tiger Woods: comeback begins, but Masters still in doubt

The former world No 1 is back on the golf course after an extended break, but he has not committed to next week's Masters

Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods has taken the first tentative steps towards a return to competitive golf although it remains unclear whether the 39-year-old will compete in the Masters next week.

Woods played a practice round at Augusta National on Tuesday, the first time he has been seen on a golf course since he announced he was taking an "indefinite break" from the sport in early February.

"Tiger clearly is working hard and he will advise as to when he is ready to play competitively," his agent, Mark Steinberg, told ESPN.

Confirming that Woods, who has won the Masters four times, completed 18 holes, Steinberg didn't reveal when the golfing world might learn of Woods's decision, saying only that it will be in the "coming days."

The American, who has won 14 majors in all, stepped back from the game a week after shooting an 82 – his worst round as a professional – and finishing joint-last at the Phoenix Open.

A back problem has bedevilled Woods in recent years and it's reported that he has been "working extensively on his all-round game" at the Medalist Golf Club near his home in Florida.

Woods will be desperate to get back on the course in the light of the revelation earlier in the week that he has dropped out of the top 100 in the world rankings for the first time since he turned professional in 2006. But at the same time he will be wary of doing any further damage to his reputation, which has been in steady decline in recent years. It's now seven years since the world 104 won a major and his last tournament win was the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in 2013.

Discussing a possible Woods comeback at the Masters next week, the New York Times said it "would be foolish to assert that he will never be great again". However, the paper noted that in past cases where Woods had taken a break from the game – enforced or otherwise – he has always struggled for form in his first tournament back. The paper concluded: "Based on the historical record, it is unlikely his return to glory will come next week at Augusta".

The Washington Times says that tournament organisers and their broadcast partners will be pinning their hopes on seeing Woods in Augusta next week because he "can shoot 83 and still draw more eyeballs than a no-name shooting 63". The evidence? His absence from last year's Masters resulted in its lowest weekend ratings since 1957.

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