Plane spotter raises prospect of Tiger Woods return

Tiger Woods has slipped to 104th and is outside the world's elite for the first time since 1996. Picture: PA
Tiger Woods has slipped to 104th and is outside the world's elite for the first time since 1996. Picture: PA
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IT WAS only the sighting of a plane but it certainly sparked a social media frenzy as the possibility of Tiger Woods playing in next week’s Masters appeared to have increased significantly.

According to Scott Michaux of the Augusta Chronicle, the fount of knowledge when it comes to the season’s opening major, a plane matching the tail numbers of Woods’ Gulfstream G5 was parked in front of the terminal for private aircraft at Augusta Regional Airport yesterday morning.

It appeared to suggest the 14-times major winner was in town for a practice round, which would, of course, be easy to find out at the likes of St Andrews but not at Augusta National.

What goes on behind its doors outside Masters week is private business, giving Woods the chance to get in a practice round away from prying eyes as he keeps the sporting world in suspense.

Will he play or won’t he? That’s the six million dollar question with the year’s first major championship now just over a week away.

A four-times Masters winner, his participation has been in doubt since a torrid spell culminated with him with-drawing from the Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego in February.

In the wake of that, the former world No 1 – he has now slipped to 104th and outside the world’s elite for the first time since 1996 – issued a statement saying he would only play again when his troubled game was “tournament ready”. Notah Begay, a good friend, reckoned Woods was “50-50” a week ago to return at Augusta.

It would seem, certainly by yesterday’s development, that the percentage has turned in favour of him being there.

Unlike a regular Tour event, Woods doesn’t have a deadline to commit one way or the other. It would seem likely, though, that a statement either way should be forthcoming within the next few days.

Woods missed the Masters for the first time in 20 years 12 months ago after undergoing back surgery the week before the tournament.

He last won the event in 2005 but has finished outside of the top six at Augusta only once in his last nine starts.

One man who probably wouldn’t mind seeing Woods there next week is Rory McIlroy. After all, it would take a bit of the spotlight away from the world No 1 as he bids to not only make it three majors in a row but also become just the sixth player in the sport to complete a career Grand Slam.

Meanwhile, a week after it was reported that Woods is to be paid $16.5 million to re-design two courses in China, the Chinese authorities have closed 66 courses built in violation of laws that protect arable land and preserve water. “Local governments have shut down a number of illegally- built golf courses,” read a statement.

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