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Woods to make PGA Tour comeback next week

February 20, 2009 11:14 IST

Tiger Woods will return to the PGA Tour at next week's WGC-Match Play Championship in Arizona after being sidelined by injury since his U.S. Open victory last year.

"I'm now ready to play again," the American world number one said on his official website (www.tigerwoods.com) on Thursday.

Woods, whose wife Elin gave birth to the couple's second child earlier this month, clinched his 14th major title at Torrey Pines in June before having reconstructive knee surgery.

He has not played competitive golf since his astonishing U.S. Open playoff victory over Rocco Mediate.

Defying stabbing knee pain and a double stress fracture of his left tibia, Woods held off a late challenge by Mediate to triumph after 19 holes and claim his 65th PGA Tour title.

After recovering from knee surgery, he began hitting full shots midway through December and has made his top priority the April 9-12 U.S. Masters, the opening major of the year.

"Elin and our new son Charlie are doing great," Woods said. "I've enjoyed my time at home with the family and appreciate everyone's support and kind wishes."

Woods's absence from the game for the second half of last year led to a predictable drop in television ratings in the U.S. and the PGA Tour celebrated the news of his comeback.

"We are delighted that Tiger is returning to competition and look forward to watching him compete next week," Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said in a statement.

The timing of Woods's return had posed the biggest question mark in golf this year and many insiders speculated the likeliest comeback would be the March 12-15 WGC-CA Championship on the flat Doral layout in Miami.

However, his close friend Mark O'Meara, who recently played a practice round with Woods, hinted at last week's Allianz Championship on the Champions Tour that Woods would return in Arizona.

"He hasn't told me personally when he's going to start back but I know he's pretty much almost ready to start back, so I wouldn't be surprised," O'Meara told reporters.

Woods's management team have consistently said the game's leading player would return the minute he felt capable of winning a tournament. According to double major champion O'Meara, he has already reached that stage.

"He's hitting the ball really well," O'Meara said. "I would say he's better than ever. I think the break was probably the best thing that ever happened to him. I think he's going to come back better than ever."

Woods is defending champion at next week's Match Play Championship, having romped to victory by a record 8&7 margin over fellow American Stewart Cink in last year's final.

He had previously won the title in 2003 and 2004.

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