LONDON – Despite not competing since his car crash in November, Tiger Woods is still the favorite to win the Masters.
Barely an hour after the announcement Tuesday that Woods will make his return at Augusta National next month, the British bookmaker William Hill installed him the 4-1 favorite. Phil Mickelson is second at 6-1, followed by Padraig Harrington at 16-1.
Hill also lists Woods as 1-20 to make the cut at the Masters. He is 25-1 to win all four majors this year.
“All the major courses are Tiger’s favorites, so despite a terrible beginning we think that 2010 will end up being terrific for Tiger,” William Hill spokesman Rupert Adams said in a statement.
Woods has not played competitively since crashing his car into a tree outside his Florida home, setting off revelations he had been cheating on his wife.
“We’re pleased to hear that Tiger is to return to golf,” Royal & Ancient Golf Club spokesman Malcolm Booth said. “Golf needs the world No. 1 to be playing.”
The Royal & Ancient, golf’s governing body sport outside the United States, hopes Woods will play at the British Open in July.
Woods has not yet entered to play at the British Open at St. Andrews, but has until May 27 to send his entry form. Booth said it’s “normal” that he hasn’t entered yet.
“Typically, we would receive entries within a few weeks of that deadline,” Booth said, noting several players from the “exempt field” of former champions have already sent their forms.
The Masters begins April 8.
“It’s great to see him coming back again. It’s absolutely brilliant,” said Darren Clarke, one Woods’ close friends on the European Tour. “We all want him back because he’s the best player on the planet.”
Woods has won 14 majors, including four Masters titles and three British Opens – two of them at St. Andrews, Scotland. The British Open is July 15-18.
“We’d always want the world No. 1 to return to the Open championship,” Booth said. “He could be the first to win three times at St. Andrews, and it would be back-to-back. No one’s ever won three at St. Andrews.”
English golfer Ross Fisher was driving to this week’s Transitions Championship in Florida when he heard the news of Woods’ plan to return at the Masters.
“It’s going to be very interesting now to see what happens at Augusta,” Fisher said. “But I thought he might have come back a bit earlier at either the Tavistock Cup or Bay Hill to get some golf in. Still it’s going to be very exciting.”
Fisher said the atmosphere had not been the same at the recent Accenture and CA Championship without Woods in the field for the first two big-money tournaments of 2010.
“There is always an extra element when you have the best golfer in the world taking part,” Fisher said. “But the best news now is that he is coming back.”
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Associated Press Writer Graham Otway contributed to this report.