Because the Masters champions dinner is Angel Cabrera's call, it is certain that Argentine beef will be on the menu. If Cabrera had his choice about other things at Augusta next month, Tiger Woods would be at the table and on the tee.

"Obviously, I want Tiger to be there," Cabrera said Tuesday through an interpreter during the annual Masters champion conference call. "He's the best, and when he's there, he makes tournaments different. It's a special tournament."

Cabrera might just get his wish. Woods was reported Tuesday to be home from rehab and practicing on the driving range at Isleworth, near his Orlando, Fla., home. The Associated Press, quoting a source familiar with Woods' whereabouts, added that he is working on fitness, as well.

The source was no more specific about Woods' return date than the golfer was during his Feb. 19 public statement. But the fact that he is done with therapy (reportedly for sex addiction) and is hitting golf balls does raise the possibility that he could play at Augusta National on April 8-11. Woods could be among the fellow diners when Cabrera introduces his "asado," a five-course barbecue peppered with beef.

Even when Woods is not the defending champion of the Masters, the four-time Green Jacket winner overshadows whoever is. Woods will be the big story at Augusta this year whether he is there or not. His only reference to a comeback during his public apology Feb. 19 was vague, acknowledging only that he will return to golf "one day."

$imageCaption

Woods acknowledged last month that he had been through 45 days of therapy and was going back for more. The AP story said he came home Saturday.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

"Tiger is the best and I want him back, but the Masters will always be the Masters, with or without Tiger," said Cabrera, who defeated Kenny Perry and Chad Campbell in a playoff at Augusta last year. "When he does come back, I hope it's in the Masters and he comes back in great form."

Cabrera defeated Woods by one shot to win the 2007 U.S. Open, his first major triumph. "There's no question the majors are where there's more pressure over you, but you have to play the most naturally you can," the defending champion said.

In his case, that involves emulating another golf icon and friend, Seve Ballesteros. Cabrera's escape through trees - including a lucky bounce off one of them - during the playoff was reminiscent of Ballesteros.

"He has given me good advice," Cabrera said. "I think we are similar in the sense that when you get to the ball, you might just see a shot and you go for it."