Back on course: Tiger plans to return next month in Florida

Woods expected to announce his comeback today at Bay Hill tournament near his home in Orlando

When Tiger Woods at last fronts up to the world in his carefully choreographed television statement today he is expected to announce that he will make his competitive return to golf at next month's Bay Hill Invitational in Florida.

Arnold Palmer, the tournament's organiser, will be present at the rigidly controlled gathering of "friends, colleagues and close assistants" at the PGA Tour's headquarters in Jacksonville, where the world No 1 will break his three-month silence to apologise for his infidelities and to talk about his plans to end his "indefinite break" from the professional fairways.

It is believed his first playing appearance in front of paying spectators will actually come at the two-day Tavistock Cup – an exhibition match held very close to his Isleworth home – which begins on 22 March. Then, two days after that finishes, he will tee it up at nearby Bay Hill. This will act as his prep event for the Masters, the first major of the season, which takes place a fortnight later.

It may seem ironic to many that the first tee at the Tavistock Cup happens to be only a few hundred yards from the fire hydrant which Woods crashed into on 27 November, bursting free a torrid of revelations about his private life in the process. For nigh on three months the global media has been awash with tales of multiple affairs, of marital separations, even of an association with a doctor arrested on drug-doping charges. The fallout led to the father of two issuing an apology on his website and calling a pause on his career, as he tried to save his marriage.

After Woods' TV appearance was announced on Wednesday, Tim Finchem, the PGA Tour's commissioner, confirmed newspaper reports that Woods has been undergoing rehab at a sex addiction clinic. And rumours here at the WGC World Match Play Championship yesterday suggest that Woods is due to return to the clinic at the weekend for the last stages of his treatment and that this will be the reason he gives for the timing of today's "coming out of hiding" soliloquy. He will be wise to address the matter as there has been fury amongt his fellow professionals that he has chosen the Friday of a high-profile event to make his long-awaited reappearance.

The fact that Accenture, the sponsors of the Match Play, were the first of Woods' backers to drop him in the wake of the scandal was not lost on anybody. And neither was the fact that Woods appeared in public for the first time yesterday and that an agency was on hand to snap the images of him out jogging. So not only was there a story to obliterate coverage of the first day's action, but an illustration as well. Uncanny. Not to mention unwelcome. "It's selfish," Ernie Els told the American magazine Golf Week. "You can write that. I feel sorry for the sponsor. Mondays are a good day to make statements, not Friday. This takes a lot away from the golf tournament."

Mark Steinberg, Woods' agent, responded to Els's remarks telling the same magazine: "It's always good to get your information right before commenting. It's strictly a timing issue. There is a very good reason [for Friday] and not doing it next week." Even if this does happen to be because of rehab factors then it is doubtful in the extreme that Els will regret his comments. For as one well-placed insider said yesterday: "Tiger has lost all respect among his peers and overshadowing this event in this manner will only lessen his stature among them still further. By the selfishness and arrogance of this timing he obviously thinks nothing has changed. Well, he'll soon discover that something has changed. It's how the rest will look at him."

In short, the 14-times major winner has lost the locker room. That much was obvious from the comments made by competitors here who would never before have dared utter anything remotely critical about Woods. When a 20-year-old such as Rory McIlroy feels comfortable saying, "I suppose he wanted to get back at the sponsors" and then to add "I'm sick of hearing about it", it is easy to spot the hero-worship running short. Geoff Ogilvy, the Match Play's defending champion, was also critical. "Maybe we can put the whole tournament on hold for 10 minutes to watch," said the Australian. "The only thing I will say about it is that I would like to see him answer some questions. If he answers some questions then that would make it real because he wouldn't be working off a script."

There is also anger with the PGA Tour for acceding to the Woods camp's request to use its HQ on such an inappropriate day in the calendar. Finchem will be among the 30 or so "friends, colleagues etc" who will be in the background (along with Palmer, Woods' mother and representatives from his main sponsor, Nike) as Woods reads his statement, although his deputy, Ty Votaw, claimed that there would be no sit-down between the errant superstar and the hierarchy. The officials are understandably keen to have their main draw-card back on the circuit but the Tour is in danger of being seen as beholden to his every demand.



“I don’t think it’s very good, to be honest,” said the English Ryder Cup man, Oliver Wilson. “I don’t know the ins and outs and the politics, but from the players’ point of view it does seem very poor. You have a brilliant event being staged here and the sponsors deserve a lot more. And for the Tour to be setting it up in their headquarters... well, I just don’t think that's right.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
footballA colourful discussion on tactics, the merits of the English footballer and rebuilding Manchester United
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz