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Published: Thursday, 3/11/2010

AP sources: Woods likely to return at Masters

ASSOCIATED PRESS

DORAL, Fla. — Tiger Woods intends to remain out of golf at least until the Masters, two people with knowledge of his plans have told The Associated Press.

Woods has been practicing at Isleworth near his Orlando home the last two weeks, and swing coach Hank Haney flew there during the weekend to work with him. That led to speculation Thursday he was close to playing again.

The two people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because only Woods is supposed to release such information, say he is likely to play first at Augusta National in April.

The only other time Woods played a major after such a long layoff was the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot, when he was out nine weeks coping with his father's death. That's where he missed the cut for the first time at a major.

Woods has not played since Nov. 15, when he won the Australian Masters in Melbourne for his 82nd career victory. Twelve days later, he crashed his SUV into a tree near his Florida home, setting off shocking revelations that he had been cheating on his wife.

In his first public appearance Feb. 19 at the TPC Sawgrass, when he apologized for his behavior and confessed to having extramarital affairs, he said he would return to golf and that “I don't rule out that it will be this year.”

There have been signs during the last few weeks he was getting closer.

Woods returned from family therapy in Arizona on Feb. 28 and began getting into a routine of fitness and practice. Haney was working with Woods on the practice range earlier this week.

Mark Steinberg, his agent at IMG, came to the CA Championship at Doral this week to do business — Steinberg also is the managing director of golf for IMG, which conducts numerous tournaments around the world.

Meanwhile, former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer declined to comment on reports that he had been brought on board to help with Woods' return.

Fleischer said in an e-mail to the AP he could neither confirm nor deny that Woods was a client.



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