Tiger Woods will enter his new world by going back to the best part of his old one. He announced Tuesday that he will return to golf next month at the Masters, the event that established him as a major personality and that always has made him feel most at home.
On April 8 at Augusta National Golf Club, as controlled an environment as there is in his sport, Woods will play competitive golf for the first time since his life and image were shattered by a scandal that began last November. His fall - starting with an SUV crash and continuing with a series of revelations about affairs - was as swift, devastating and intensely covered as that of any public figure in recent memory. So his return was sure to be dramatic, no matter where it occurred.
He chose a place where he feels most comfortable, rejecting the chance to play a tune-up for the season's first major championship at a regular tournament.
"The Masters is where I won my first major and I view this tournament with great respect. After a long and necessary time away from the game, I feel like I'm ready to start my season at Augusta," Woods, a four-time Masters champion, said in a statement released Tuesday morning.
"The major championships have always been a special focus in my career and, as a professional, I think Augusta is where I need to be, even though it's been a while since I last played."
Billy Payne, chairman of both the Masters and Augusta National, said in a statement: "We support Tiger's decision to return to competitive golf beginning at this year's Masters Tournament. Additionally, we support and encourage his stated commitment to continue the significant work required to rebuild his personal and professional life."
Woods apparently is confident the Masters can absorb the attention without exploiting it. The tournament is run by the club and is sold out every year. Its media credential allotment is fixed. Local law enforcement is well versed in handling traffic flow and security outside the gates.
Arnold Palmer, whose invitational tournament at Orlando's Bay Hill next week was reportedly under consideration for Woods' comeback, told Golf Channel: "They will control everything. If there is a place in the world you can do this, it will be there."
A photo of Woods and his wife, Elin, on their property near Orlando, taken Saturday, has been widely circulated.
"I have undergone almost two months of inpatient therapy and I am continuing my treatment. Although I'm returning to competition, I still have a lot of work to do in my personal life," Woods said in his statement.
As wild a spectacle as his return likely will be, it actually will represent a step toward normalcy for him, his family and his sport.
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said Sunday that he has been asked "300 times a day" when Woods will come back. In a statement Tuesday, Finchem said: "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."