Tiger could return in late February, O’Meara says

Tiger Woods's return to competitive golf appears likely to happen early in 2009, according to Mark O'Meara, a former Masters champ and certified Friend of Tiger.
After a quiet summer spent recovering from knee surgery, Woods has made a flurry of promotional appearances and media interviews this fall. While he hesitated to give a return date, Woods has maintained his goal is to return for the Masters in April. In his public appearances, Woods appeared to be his usual athletic self and said he doesn't have any pain in his knee. He is able to chip and putt, but his knee cannot handle the rotation and force of full swings until January, Woods said.
O'Meara, who is one of Woods's closest friends on Tour, had lunch with Tiger recently and told reporters in Dubai that Woods would be unable to return to defend his Dubai Desert Classic title in late January, according to Australia's The National newspaper. However, O'Meara said Woods is likely to return in late February or early March during the PGA Tour's Florida swing. "Tiger is doing really well and he is pleased with the way the operation went," said O'Meara, who was visiting the UAE in his role as an ambassador for Golf in Dubai for yesterday's official launch of next month's Ladies Masters. "I'm afraid the Classic [on Jan 29] is coming round a little early for him to be able to defend his title. That's a real pity. He is going to aim for a return in late February or early March. "He is not going to start hitting balls until the end of December so it would be pushing it for him to come here in January. I imagine he will make his comeback in one of the Florida tournaments. His plan is to play a couple of events before the US Masters [in April].
O'Meara added that he'd known for some time that Woods's knee injury was serious, but he didn't tell anyone out of loyalty to his friend. "I've known for more than two years how serious his knee injury was," said O'Meara, 51. "It was really bad but it was not for me to tell anybody. I had to keep it hush, hush."

More on Woods: Tiger Tracker | Enemies and rivals | Life in pictures | 2008 season

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