Woods to play Pebble for 1st time in 10 years

Tiger Woods during the final round of the Australian Open.

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KAPALUA, Hawaii — Tiger Woods is returning to the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am for the first time in 10 years.

Woods announced on his website Monday that he will start his PGA Tour season Feb. 9-12 at Pebble Beach, which he said “might be the prettiest place on earth.”

It has not been pretty enough to get him back to the Monterey Peninsula, except for the 2010 U.S. Open, in which he tied for fourth. Woods stopped playing Pebble Beach because of greens that were exceptionally bumpy from a 180-man field. He also was worn out by the long rounds and having Poppy Hills as part of the rotation.

Now, the field is 156 players, and the Shore Course at Monterey Peninsula Country Club is in the rotation and has been very well received. The greater incentive for Woods to play, however, was AT&T as the title sponsor.

Even though AT&T was among the first corporate sponsors to dump Woods after he was caught in a series of extramarital affairs at the end of 2009 — Woods had the AT&T logo on his golf bag — the company remains title sponsor of the AT&T National, a tour event that benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation. Woods is building a learning center in the Washington, D.C., area because of that event.

Woods could not play last year because of a contract to play in Dubai, and it was not clear whether he planned to keep Pebble Beach on his schedule for more than one year.

“I’m excited to start my PGA Tour season at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am,” Woods said on his website. “AT&T is a great partner to my foundation, and I’m looking forward to playing in this event. I haven’t been to this tournament lately, but I have a lot of good memories at Pebble. It will be fun going back.”

Woods was seven shots behind with seven holes to play in 2000 when he holed out for eagle from the 15th fairway, then birdied two of the last three holes for a 64 to win as Matt Gogel stumbled on the back nine. Later that summer was a performance that some regard as his greatest moment. He was the only player to break par in the U.S. Open, winning by 15 shots.

Woods tied for 13th at the AT&T the next year, then tied for 12th in 2002, his last time playing a PGA Tour event at Pebble Beach.

His amateur partner for the past couple of years was longtime friend Jerry Chang, although there were indications from those close to Woods that he might go for more of a celebrity partner — not the Hollywood type (he played with Kevin Costner in 1997), but from the sports world. Woods and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo played the Wednesday pro-am together in 2009 at Congressional in the AT&T National.

They were joined that day by Rep. John Boehner, the Ohio Republican who was the House minority leader and since has become House speaker.

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