Jack Nicklaus insists he doesn't have any intimate knowledge of Tiger Woods' plans on returning to competition, having not spoken to the world No. 1 since his well-documented hiatus began late last fall. But Nicklaus still understands Woods' competitive mindset better than most, and the Golden Bear said he'll be "very surprised" if Woods isn't back for the Masters in five weeks.
"I suspect he'll play something before Augusta," Nicklaus told reporters at the Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., where he played the pro-am on Wednesday. "Your guess is as good as mine. I'd be very surprised if he doesn't play something before Augusta."
While Nicklaus has stayed clear of the more salacious details of the Woods scandal, he has weighed in on how the player's personal troubles would impact his golf. And on Wednesday, he said he didn't think those problems would be enough to keep off the course long.
"It would surprise me if he didn't," Nicklaus said. "I can't imagine in 100 years he's going to miss this. None of you guys do either. But I don't know. I don't know. I've been very noncommittal about anything as it's not my business. But as it relates to him playing golf, my guess is as a golfer he's going to want to try to play Augusta if he's got his other things in order."
Meanwhile, in other Woods news on the other side of the globe, caddie Steve Williams defiantly insisted in a television interview that he knew nothing of Woods' extramarital behavior.
"If the shoe was on someone else, I would say the same thing," Williams told the New Zealand version of "60 Minutes." It would be very difficult as a caddie not to know but I'm 100 percent telling you, I did not know, and that's that," he said. "I'm a straight-up sort of person. If I had known something was going on, the whistle would have been blown."
According to Williams, Woods has resumed practicing, but won't return to competition until his game is sharp.
-- Sam Weinman