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Tiger Woods to return to golf at Masters

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Tiger teeing it up for Masters
  • Superstar athlete sidelined by sex scandal
  • "I feel like I'm ready to start my season at Augusta," he says
  • Woods won Georgia tournament four times since 1997

(CNN) -- Four months after an auto accident and reports of extramarital affairs put his golf career on hold, Tiger Woods announced Tuesday that he plans to return to the sport at the Masters Tournament in April.

Woods dropped out of professional competition in December after a Thanksgiving weekend wreck outside his Florida home turned a harsh spotlight on the golfer's personal life. In March, the 34-year-old golfer issued a public apology for cheating on his wife and said he was undergoing treatment for unspecified "issues."

But on Tuesday, he said he was coming back to play in the Masters, which he has won four times since 1997.

"After a long and necessary time away from the game, I feel like I'm ready to start my season at Augusta," Woods said in a statement released by his agent. "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."

The tournament is scheduled for April 5-11 at Georgia's Augusta National Golf Club.

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Billy Payne, the club's chairman, welcomed the return of the sport's top draw.

"We support Tiger's decision to return to competitive golf beginning at this year's Masters Tournament," Payne said in a statement shortly after the announcement. "Additionally, we support and encourage his stated commitment to continue the significant work required to rebuild his personal and professional life."

Video: Tiger Woods announces return
Video: PGA excited about Woods' return

And PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem added, "We were pleased to learn that Tiger Woods will be playing the Masters in a few weeks. 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."

Woods has won four PGA championships and six of the association's Grand Slam title.

Tuesday's announcement comes nearly a month after Woods publicly apologized for what he called "irresponsible and selfish" behavior, which he said included infidelity, and said he was working to "become a better man."

"I have undergone almost two months of inpatient therapy, and I am continuing my treatment," he said in Tuesday's statement. "Although I'm returning to competition, I still have a lot of work to do in my personal life."

Woods' public woes began with an early-morning crash November 27 outside his Orlando-area home, when he suffered minor injuries after striking a fire hydrant and a tree with his Cadillac SUV.

Woods was not required to talk to police about the wreck and declined to talk with investigators on several occasions. Eventually, he was cited for careless driving. He paid a $164 fine and received four points on his driving record.

The wreck occurred days after the tabloid National Enquirer named Woods as having an affair with a New York nightclub hostess. The woman has denied the allegation, but several others have come forward to claim that they had sexual relationships with Woods, who is married to former model Elin Nordegren. The couple has two children.

In his carefully managed March statement, delivered to a small, hand-picked crowd, Woods said he was in inpatient therapy for 45 days from the end of December to early February for "issues," which he did not explain. The controversy prompted several major sponsors to suspend or drop their relationships with Woods, who also apologized to his business partners for his behavior.

And he denied speculation that Nordegren attacked him the night of the accident, saying she showed "enormous grace and poise throughout this ordeal."