Woods joins O'Meara for practice round

Updated: April 5, 2010, 9:25 AM ET
By Bob Harig | ESPN.com

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- With little fanfare and even less attention, Tiger Woods arrived at Augusta National on Sunday afternoon to continue preparations for the Masters.

In what would likely be categorized as his first semi-public appearance on a golf course since a highly publicized sex scandal caused him to take a leave from the game, Woods walked onto Augusta National's new state-of-the-art driving range at 1:39 p.m. to begin warming up.

Woods leisurely hit balls between pros Paul Casey and Brian Gay, with his long-time caddie, Steve Williams, at his side. Swing coach Hank Haney watched from behind.

Augusta National was not open to spectators on Sunday, but there was a good bit of activity nonetheless as last-minute preparations were on-going. Media members, as is customary, were allowed on the property, but not the course, as the club was still open to member play.

And a good number of members took advantage of warm temperatures and perfect conditions, as did several players who are in this week's field. The tournament begins Thursday.

Woods, who has played several practice rounds at Augusta National since announcing on March 16 that he would make his return to golf here, headed to the course after his warm-up session where he saw friend and 1998 Masters champion Mark O'Meara coming off the ninth green.

The two briefly embraced, then Woods joined O'Meara for a practice round on the 10th tee -- with at least a half-dozen security personnel tagging along.

"That's the first time I've seen Tiger since the British Open, July last year," O'Meara said after the 9-hole practice round. "It was nice to see my friend. I care deeply about Tiger and his family."

"I know it's been a tough 4 or 5 months. Like I told him out there, this is where he belongs, on the golf course. He's done a lot of good for the game. The personal side of it, obviously ... not so good. I think he realizes that. He's trying to turn himself around as a person and as a father."

"Hey listen, no one is perfect. We thought he was but no one is actually perfect."

Woods has not played a tournament round since winning the Australian Masters on Nov. 15. O'Meara said that Woods was "swinging well" and that he looked "great."

"He's doing what he needs to do, starting back at a pace that he wants to start back," O'Meara said. "He's going to be fine. Of all the people I've ever met, he's one of the toughest guys mentally I've ever met. I think he'll do well this week. He's been out of the game for awhile, but he left with a win. Certainly he knows how to win. He's won here four times. I just think he's ready to get back out playing and competing against the rest of the guys."

Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.

Bob Harig | email

Golf Writer, ESPN.com