Woods takes break for sick father

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In news that must have horrified tournament organisers and cheered his most competitive rivals in equal measure, Tiger Woods hinted yesterday he would not be playing again before the US Open in June.

Speaking in Auckland, where he is attending the wedding of his caddie, Steve Williams, Woods said: "I'm taking time off. I'm here for Steve, and will then enjoy time off with my father. So I won't be playing for a while."

The world No 1 would not be drawn on when he will return but did stress that while he would be skipping tournaments he might usually have played in, he would be back for Winged Foot, Mamaronek, New York, which hosts the season's second major.

The feeling is that the 30-year-old is prepared to go straight into the US Open without a warm-up event, regardless of the new threat to his hegemony posed by Phil Mickelson, the Masters champion who will be attempting to win his third consecutive major.

"It's kinda all up in the air with the situation back home, so I don't know what's going to happen," said Woods, referring to the continued battle of his 74-year-old father, Earl, with cancer. "He's hanging in there, the guy is an absolute fighter." Woods also announced that he would be taking part in a charity celebrity stock car race on Monday.

* The Open Championship will return to St Andrews in 2010 (15-18 July) to mark the tournament's 150th anniversary, the event's organisers said yesterday. St Andrews will be hosting its 28th Open, more than any other course.