Reaction to the Tiger Woods' return

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The Independent Online

Former Ryder Cup player Howard Clark has said he can see some "method behind the madness" of Tiger Woods returning at The Masters and not before.

Golf's number one has decided not to have a warm-up event, but to start facing the world again at the opening major of the season on April 8-11.

"I think it would be advisable to come back and play somewhere like Bay Hill because he has won it so many times and played so well there," said Clark on Sky Sports.

"But on the other side of it there won't be any cat-calls at The Masters. I think there's a little bit of method behind the madness.

"And there's a champions locker room where he can gain a lot of privacy. He can get away from the crowds, away from the media.

"With him working so hard on his game recently we knew he was going to start soon, but I think everybody has been caught cold by this.

"We knew he'd be back for The Masters, but we thought he might have two or three, maybe four or five, rounds under his belt to play and get used to playing again.

"Steve Stricker has spoken out recently and said it would be a bit unfortunate if it turned into a media 'Tiger comeback tournament' rather than The Masters championship itself.

"I don't think The Masters will allow that to happen to be honest. I think they will have all the media right in their place where they want them.

"They will have designated times that Tiger will turn up for photocalls, media interviews, radio, tv. It is going to be a scramble, but that first interview is going to be something amazing.

"The media will have their say, but I think The Masters have to keep a little bit of a tight rein on it.

"I think Tiger will feel comfortable in that environment. It's the smallest field of all the majors and it's probably the easiest one for him to win - there's quite a bit of room on the course.

"I think the situation is one he can control with all his IMG (International Management Group) men, with the people who work alongside him.

"They will be able to control things a lot easier at The Masters than at any other event."

Tim Finchem, commissioner of the PGA Tour, said in a statement: "We were pleased to learn that Tiger Woods will be playing the Masters in a few weeks.

"He has invested a lot of time taking steps, both in his personal and professional life, in order to prepare for his return.

"We all wish him and his family the best as he rejoins the Tour."

Arnold Palmer, the host of next week's event in Orlando, was contacted by Woods before the Masters announcement and said: "He didn't feel his game was up to speed to play this early.

"We're all disappointed that Tiger isn't going to be here to play.

"Augusta is the one place in the world where you can really have control. They will control everything from the crowds to the situation that will be facing Tiger.

"I think that if there is a place in the world that you can do that and do it properly, Augusta will do that."

Former Open champion John Daly added that it would be "business as usual" for Woods on his return.

Speaking on the Golf Channel in America Daly commented: "Tiger doesn't have anything to prove to anybody. He'll be focused on what he needs to do.

"The thing about Augusta is it's not like you can just walk in and buy a ticket, so it's tough and there's less crowds."

Charles Howell spent an hour on the Islworth practice range with Woods recently and stated: "Honestly, he looked as good as he ever has.

"Seriously, he seemed like he was hitting it the same as he ever did."

Ryder Cup player JB Holmes echoed that, saying: "I watched him hit about five or six drivers and it looked like they all ended up in a 10-yard area. It looks like he's hitting it pretty good."

Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy added: "It's certainly going to be interesting to see, not just how he plays, but how he handles the whole situation."