O'Meara Says Tiger's Ready To Return

February 14, 2009

BOCA RATON, Fla. (AP) -- Mark O'Meara said Sunday that Tiger Woods looks better than ever and is ready to return to the PGA Tour, but he stopped short of saying the world's No. 1 player would be at the Accenture Match Play Championship that starts Feb. 25.

Speculation has increased over the past week that Woods would make his debut in Tucson, Ariz., because his wife gave birth to their second child -- a boy named Charlie Axel -- last Sunday.

Woods has not played since reconstructive surgery on his left knee a week after winning the U.S. Open in June.

Tom Jenkins, a co-leader at the Allianz Championship on the Champions Tour, had said Saturday that O'Meara told him Woods had planned to return at Match Play, and if not then, play Doral and Bay Hill in Florida.

O'Meara has been close friends with Woods since he joined the PGA Tour in 1996 at age 20.

"He hasn't told me personally when he's going to start back, but I know he's pretty much almost ready to start back, so I wouldn't be surprised," O'Meara said. "But I don't make his schedule, and I know that everybody always wants me to tell everybody when he's going to play, but I don't know what he's going to play."

Woods is the defending champion at Match Play and has an endorsement deal with Accenture. He is expected to be in Arizona next week for a corporate obligation, although that doesn't mean he will play. Woods has until Friday to decide.

O'Meara said he saw Woods on Wednesday to congratulate him on the birth of his son, and in a recent round of golf with Woods, "He's hitting them really well."

"I would say he's better than ever," O'Meara said. "His legs bothered him for about three years and it had been pretty bad. I think the break was probably the best thing that ever happened to him. Eight months away from the game, it gave him a chance to connect with his daughter, see the birth of his son.

"I think he's going to be come back better than ever," he said. "That's just my opinion, and I can be wrong. But most of the time with Tiger, I've been right."