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Tiger starts practice; Western media on the prowl

Tiger Woods practices on the driving range at the Augusta National Golf Club for the Masters, which begins Thursday. AP         

AUGUSTA, Georgia – Tiger Woods got a big hug from an old friend, along with some encouraging words for his return to competition at the Masters.

“This is the place where you belong,” Mark O’Meara said he told Woods as they walked down the 10th fairway on the final day of practice before the gates to Augusta National Open. “This is what you love to do.”

First comes a chore that Woods never enjoyed even in the best of times.

Woods faces a tournament news conference at 2 p.m. Monday for the first time since the public learned of his sordid private life.

Ever since he ran over a fire hydrant and into a tree in the early hours of Nov. 27 – that infamous car accident that sparked incredible revelations of rampant affairs – Woods has kept public comments to a minimum.

He issued two statements on his website about his infidelity. He spoke for 13 1/2 minutes to a small group of family and friends on Feb. 19 at PGA Tour headquarters. He announced he was returning to golf. And he gave a pair of five-minute interviews to TV networks.

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This news conference, however, comes with no restrictions.

He won’t be reading a script into a camera. He is facing a room full of reporters, who are not limited by time.

It was Augusta National that requested Woods speak on a Monday afternoon to avoid stealing the show from so many other Masters contenders who are to have press conferences on Tuesday.

A Masters official made it clear that Woods isn’t running this show, however long it lasts.

“There’s always going to be questions,” O’Meara said. “But he’s made a statement about what he’s done. He’s admitted his guilt, and now it’s time for him to make things right. He’ll figure it out. He’s pretty tough.”

Woods has run into a few players during the last month of practice at home in Florida. Brian Gay was among those who saw him at Augusta National last week when Woods was preparing for the Masters, although Gay didn’t approach him. - AP                  

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