Golf-Immelman expects Woods to be ready for Masters return

FILE PHOTO: Golf - PNC Championship - The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Orlando, Florida, U.S. - December 19, 2021 Tiger Woods of the U.S. hits his tee shot on the 16th hole during second round REUTERS/Joe Skipper

(Reuters) - Tiger Woods will not be at his favourite hunting ground of Torrey Pines this week but former Masters winner Trevor Immelman expects to see the 15-time major champion back at Augusta National in April.

Woods has made few competitive appearances since last July's British Open as the former world number one deals with yet another health issue - plantar fasciitis - that has further slowed his recovery from injuries sustained in a near fatal 2021 car crash.

Since St. Andrews, his only competitive golf has been the PNC Championship, a 36-hole tournament with a field comprised of major winners playing with a family member, which he took part in with son Charlie, and a made-for-TV exhibition dubbed "The Match".

2008 Masters champion Immelman said that despite Woods's inactively he fully expects to see the five-time Green Jacket winner in the field for the year's first major from April 6-9.

"I spent quite a lot of time with him towards the end of last year and as always he's working hard," Immelman told Reuters in a telephone interview.

"His work ethic is unparalleled and he is trying to do everything he can to live a functional life for his family but also to be able to compete.

"I do anticipate him playing the Masters," added Immelman, who makes his debut as CBS Sport's lead golf analyst on Friday at the PGA Tour stop at Torrey Pines, where Woods has won eight times.

"He has to make sure he is really ready to walk that course four or five days in a row.

"That for me would be the only question mark for him because his game looked pretty good when I seen him."

Almost two years since a car crash nearly resulted in the amputation of his right leg, Woods continues his rehabilitation from injuries that have limited his number of events.

Woods, who turned 47 on Dec. 30, surprised the golf world when he returned to competition at last year's Masters, where he shot an opening-round 71 and made the cut before fading to 47th place over the weekend.

Six weeks later he withdrew from the PGA Championship after carding a nine-over-par 79 in the third round, during which his leg appeared to be causing him significant discomfort.

Woods then skipped the U.S. Open, the year's third major, so he could focus on the British Open at St. Andrews where he finished nine-over-par for his two rounds.

"Seems to me his game is still quite sharp, he still has enough speed with the driver and all the skill," said South African Immelman. "I'm not sure how he has progressed in the six, seven weeks since I've seen him, hopefully even better.

"I expect him to play between four to six events this season.

"I think a lot of it will depend on how the major golf courses are set up for him."

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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