Monday 24 October 2016

Tiger Woods set for Masters return

USA's Tiger Woods
USA's Tiger Woods

Former world number one Tiger Woods will have to match the achievement of his good friend Darren Clarke to win a fifth green jacket in this week's Masters.

Woods has started just two events in 2015, shooting a career-worst score of 82 to miss the cut in the first of them and withdrawing through injury after just 11 holes of the second.

That led to the 14-time major winner taking a break from competition to work on his game, during which time he dropped outside the world's top 100 for the first time since September 1996, a slide which continued on Monday as he fell from 104th to 111th.

European Ryder Cup captain Clarke was coincidentally ranked 111th when he won the Open Championship in 2011, with Keegan Bradley then winning the US PGA when ranked 108th.

Since then, Ernie Els has been the lowest ranked played to win any major - 40th at the 2012 Open - while Rory McIlroy was eighth when he won the Open at Hoylake last year and world number one when he claimed a second US PGA title three weeks later.

Woods has not played competitively since February 5 and only confirmed he would compete in the first major championship of the year on Friday after completing a practice round at Augusta National earlier in the week.

The 39-year-old is now ranked below the likes of Japan's Tomohiro Kondo and Mexico's Carlos Ortiz and has not won a major since the 2008 US Open. His last Masters victory came in 2005 and he missed the event for the first time in his career last year following back surgery.

At least as a former champion the American is entitled to take his place in the field, unlike the unfortunate Scot Marc Warren.

Warren missed out on a Masters debut after failing to make the world's top 50 by the March 30 deadline by just 0.094 points, only to find himself ranked 50th this week when the rankings were updated after the Shell Houston Open.

American JB Holmes, who defeated Johnson Wagner and Jordan Spieth in a play-off to win in Houston, moves up from 20th to 12th as a result, with Spieth remaining fourth behind Masters champion Bubba Watson, Henrik Stenson and McIlroy.

Spieth, who finished runner-up to Watson 12 months ago, would have moved up to second with a victory but bogeyed the first play-off hole.

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