Just like everything else involving the world's most famous golfer, Tiger Woods' private jet turned out to be not so private. It was tracked, then photographed as it sat on the tarmac in Augusta this past week because it offered a clue that Woods would play in the Masters this year.

Also, a plane was the appropriate metaphor for a career that is totally up in the air.

Woods ended weeks of intrigue when he announced Friday that he will end his two-month hiatus at the season's first major championship. He released that information on his website after another surprise flight to the small airport in Georgia. What happens next will be a surprise to everyone, including him.

There is no way to know if his short game has recovered or if it can hold up to tournament conditions. Will his chip shots roll the way he wants? Will his pitch shots literally go up in the air at just the right angle? He said when he stepped away from the tour that he would return when he is ready to win. Is he?

Only one thing is for sure: It won't be private. He will be the most observed, followed and talked-about person on the grounds when the Masters begins Thursday.

"We watched him get into a parking spot last year, at the PGA, for 30 minutes, on live TV," said Chris DiMarco, who lost in a playoff to Woods in 2005, the four-time champion's most recent green jacket triumph.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

For a guy generally diagnosed with the chipping yips, Woods did not choose the easiest place to return. Chipping is both vital and difficult at Augusta National. But Woods obviously feels comfortable with the place, having chosen it as the site for his return to golf in 2009 after the notorious fire hydrant accident, which seems to have changed his life's arc.

He missed the Masters last year because of back surgery and did not want to go another year without entering. Despite not having played competitively since February, when he withdrew from the Farmers Insurance Open with back tightness, Woods is putting himself in scrutiny's crosshairs.

"I think the reason he WD'd at San Diego . . . there was no back problem, he was embarrassed to be out there," DiMarco said on a conference call this week, 10 years after he witnessed Woods sink a remarkable chip shot on the No. 16 hole in the final round.

"I never thought I'd say it, because I thought when I played with him he had the strongest mind I've ever seen, but it's getting mental and if it doesn't get fixed, I don't know if he can overcome it," DiMarco said.

Woods' mechanics have become flawed, instructors say. Mike Jacobs, director of golf at Rock Hill Country Club in Manorville, author of the new book, "Swing Tips You Should Forget," included an article in his latest newsletter titled, "What's Wrong with Tiger Woods." He referred to Woods' habit of getting his hands well ahead of the ball at impact, which can lead to flubbed chips.


"A lot of modern instruction includes that and he decided to do that. Now he's trapped, where his hands are too far forward and his clubhead doesn't get to the ball," Jacobs said in an interview. "That's the technique part of it. The how and why he got himself into it, that's open to speculation. Most golfers on tour would play their way through it, but he has so much media attention, he can't do that."

Other experts believe Woods' problems run deeper. Perhaps they are rooted in his injuries, his penchant for swing tinkering or his weight training. Paul Azinger, who will work on ESPN's telecasts Thursday and Friday, said: "All we see with Tiger is the tip of the iceberg. We don't see the whole iceberg.

"We all know the plight of Tiger Woods. Sadly, for whatever reason, Tiger sacrificed a winning swing at the altar of a perfect swing and he may have sacrificed a winning body at the altar of a perfect body. And it's been hard to watch that undoing. But that's what we've seen."

This week, whether it will be a matter of doing or undoing for Woods, it definitely will be seen.