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Thursday 14 December 2017

Tiger back for Masters: Jack

Lure of Augusta too strong to resist says buddy Nicklaus

Jack Nicklaus expects Tiger Woods to return to action in time for the Masters. Woods is four titles short of matching Nicklaus' record of 18 majors, but has not played this year.

The Masters begins on April 8 and last month Woods offered no assurances he would play at all in 2010 as he apologised for the sex scandal which has turned his life upside down.

However Nicklaus suspects 34-year-old Woods will be itching to play at Augusta and is likely to take his place in the field. Speaking before the Honda Classic at PGA National, Nicklaus said: "It would surprise me if he didn't.

"I've been very non-committal because it's none of my business. But playing golf, my guess as a golfer, he's going to probably try to."

Nicklaus added: "I suspect he will play something before Augusta, and I'd be very surprised if he doesn't play before Augusta."

Discussing Woods further, Nicklaus said: "His personal life is his personal life. He's a professional golfer and he's a sensational golfer. He's a great athlete, and he'll figure out his own problems. And as a golfer, he'll come back and get his game in shape and play. That's what he does."

Meanwhile, Woods' caddie Steve Williams claims he would have "blown the whistle" if he had known of the world No1's affairs.

Speaking in an interview that aired on 60 Minutes in his native New Zealand, Williams insisted he would not have remained silent if he'd had any knowledge of what was happening off the course.

"In some people's perception, I'm involved in it and I've committed a crime or I've done wrong," Williams said. "The truth is I knew nothing.

"If the shoe was on somebody else's foot I would say the same thing, that it would be difficult not to know, but I'm telling you, 100pc, I knew nothing.

"It's been the most difficult time of my life ... because every single person believed that I should know or did know or had something to do with it.

"If I had known something was going on, the whistle would have been blown."

Meanwhile, Pádraig Harrington admits any player with aspirations of winning the 2010 Honda Classic at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, will have to conquer a "big, tough golf course".

The first round gets under way on the Champion Course tomorrow as Harrington bids to repeat his Honda success from 2005 at Mirasol.

The 38-year-old three-time major winner saw off the challenge of Vijay Singh and Joe Ogilvie in a sudden-death play-off five years ago, but finished tied for 13th the last time he played at PGA National in 2007.

"I'm looking forward to playing the course again," Harrington said.

"Obviously the Honda Classic has been good to me. This is a difficult golf course, the PGA National, you really want to be on top of your game.

"There's a lot of seriously tough holes out there. It's definitely one of the toughest regular courses of the year. This golf course is just a big, tough golf course. But if you don't like it your game isn't good enough."

Harrington will face competition from the likes of Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy and Englishmen Paul Casey and Lee Westwood.

Also among the favourites is Australia's Robert Allenby. Ernie Els, Sergio Garcia, Camilo Villegas, YE Yang, Tim Clark and Anthony Kim are also in the field.

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