Tiger Woods ended one mystery Friday afternoon when he announced that he will play in the Masters next week.
With that, he ushered in another mystery, regarding whether his short game has recovered enough to contend in the season's first major championship.
Woods had made an unannounced but much publicized visit to Augusta National on Tuesday and, according to Golf Channel, returned on Friday. After the latter occasion, he ended weeks of speculation by saying on his website, "I'm playing in the Masters.
"It's obviously very important to me, and I want to be there," he wrote on tigerwoods.com. "I've worked a lot on my game and I'm looking forward to competing. I'm excited to get to Augusta and I appreciate everyone's support."
He has played only 47 holes of competitive golf this year, and those have been mostly unproductive and at times embarrassing. He withdrew from the Farmers Insurance Open at San Diego's Torrey Pines -- one of his favorite stops -- in February, citing tightness in his back. Woods earlier missed the cut at the Phoenix Open, shooting a career-worst 82 in one round. He later announced that he would not return to tournament play until his game was ready to put him in position to win.
Golf analysts said Woods appeared to be battling the "chipping yips," an inability to get the ball anywhere near the hole from just off the green. Golf Channel commentator Brandel Chamblee said during a conference call this week that the worst PGA Tour players in chipping statistics generally leave the ball about 10 feet from the hole. "At Phoenix, Tiger chipped it 30 feet from the hole," Chamblee said. "Every single time he had a chip, he averaged three times as bad as the very worst guy on the PGA Tour."
It has been 10 years since Woods won the Masters, but he does feel comfortable at Augusta, having won the green jacket four times.
Woods' close friend Notah Begay, also a Golf Channel analyst, said on the air Friday that Woods has taken "thousands of chip shots" in practice, adding, "I know he's not there to play, he's there to compete."