|Published:||Aug 01, 2011 3:22 AM EDT|
|Updated:||Aug 01, 2011 6:30 AM EDT|
SYDNEY (AP) - Tiger Woods will play in the Australian Open a week before the Presidents Cup in his first appearance in Sydney since his first year as a pro.
Golf Australia chief Stephen Pitt announced Monday that Woods would join the field for the Nov. 10-13 tournament that already includes Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, defending champion Geoff Ogilvy and Presidents Cup captains Greg Norman and Fred Couples.
The Presidents Cup is the following week at Royal Melbourne.
Woods, who has been out the last three months with injuries to his left knee and Achilles', is No. 26 in the Presidents Cup standings. The top 10 Americans qualify for the U.S. team on Sept. 18, although Couples is likely to take Woods as a captain's pick if his game appears to be in good shape.
The announcement is a sign Woods feels confident his leg is fully healed and he expects to play in the Presidents Cup.
The 14-time major champion has plunged to No. 28 in the world - his lowest ranking since he was No. 33 at the start of the 1997 season - and has gone 20 months since his last win at the 2009 Australian Masters in Melbourne.
Twelve days after that win, he crashed his car into a fire hydrant outside his Florida home, the start of a stunning unraveling of his personal life that led to him be exposed for multiple extramarital affairs. He was divorced in August 2010.
Woods returned to Australia last year and tied for fourth in the Australian Masters.
He last played in Sydney in the 1996 Australian Open, where he opened with a 79 and rallied to tie for fifth. It was his ninth tournament as a pro.
"I haven't played in the tournament since 1996, and I'm anxious to return," Woods said in a statement released by Golf Australia. "I have a great affinity for playing golf in Australia and I'm looking forward to competing against an outstanding field."
Woods' last appearance in Australia generated capacity crowds for the Australian Masters as well as high levels of security and intense media scrutiny. The PGA of Australia is expecting record crowds and TV audiences for its major events this year.
"Tiger's presence in Australia's most prestigious tournament will further enhance what is certain to be a huge summer of Australian golf," PGA of Australia chief executive Brian Thorburn said.
It once appeared unlikely for Woods to play in the Australian Open. IMG runs the Australian Masters and had lobbied hard to have that tournament held the week before the Presidents Cup, the premier spot on Australia's golf calendar this year. Organizers instead gave the date to the Australian Open, which is golf's fourth-oldest championship.
That changed, however, when IMG did not renew the contract of Woods' agent, Mark Steinberg, who also ran IMG's golf division. Steinberg now works for Excel Sports Management.