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Monday 18 December 2017

Confusion reigns over Tiger return date

Take your pick: Tiger Woods will either be back playing in two weeks' time or at the Masters next month.

Or possibly at some date after that.

Different unnamed sources were saying different things yesterday about when the world No1 will end his indefinite leave.

All that was definite about the situation by the end of the day was that the man himself has confirmed nothing yet.

Just when all signs appeared to be pointing to the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando on March 25-28 -- and probably the unofficial Tavistock Cup at the start of that week -- came reports that Augusta on April 8-11 was the likely date.

The more controlled environment at the Masters, with media numbers limited and less likelihood of fan rowdiness, would appear to make sense if Woods wants to ease back in.

No warm-up tournament before the first major of the year, however, would appear to lessen the chances of him taking his title tally to 15.

Meanwhile, South African Charl Schwartzel stamped his class on the first round of the CA World Championship of Golf with a bogey-free 67 as Doral's Blue Monster showed its teeth in vicious 30mph winds to lead Robert Allenby by one stroke.

When the going gets tough, one can rely on Pádraig Harrington to find his focus and he didn't disappoint, with yesterday's splendid 70 by far his best effort of the year.

After a recent birdie drought, the Dubliner had five on his card, including one of only four yesterday on 18, courtesy of a wonderful 16-foot putt, which swept him to within three strokes of the lead on two-under.

Graeme McDowell worked his way into a great position yesterday and once again saw some great work almost completely undone with an unhappy hat-trick of bogeys.

Sadly, Rory McIlroy languishes close to the tail end of the field after a four-over-par 76 -- the youngster's highest round score since last May's Irish Open at Baltray, as he struggled once again for accuracy from tee to green.

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