Speculation continues on Woods' return

Updated: January 8, 2009, 2:24 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

KAPALUA, Hawaii -- Speculation on when Tiger Woods will return to competitive golf continues unabated as the PGA Tour season gets set to tee off.

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that assuming there is no swelling or other complications when he resumes a full practice routine, Woods likely will make his 2009 debut at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Marana, Ariz., during the last week in February.

USA Today reported that Woods could begin in March at the Arnold Palmer Invitational or at the World Golf Championships-CA Championship.

Woods, who has said he wants to play in the Masters in April, says he does not know when he will return. His wife is expecting their second child in February, so he won't return before then.

Woods began taking full swings with short clubs in December. He hasn't played since last June, when he won the U.S. Open. He had reconstructive knee surgery on his left knee eight days later.

Woods said he believes he will be stronger than ever, finally able to swing against a stable left knee, and there is no reason to doubt him.

He won his first tournament back after his last two knee surgeries, but if he comes back for the Match Play event, expecting him to win might be a long shot. No other tournament requires as many breaks and as much good timing to win as Match Play.

At least one place thinks Woods will return in winning form. British-based William Hill already has installed him as the 9-to-4 favorite to win the Masters.

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The bookmaker lists Phil Mickelson at 10-to-1 winning the Masters, followed by Sergio Garcia at 12-to-1 and Padraig Harrington, going for his third straight victory in a major, at 14-to-1.

One other betting option on Woods is how many majors he will win in 2009. William Hill offers 2-to-1 odds that Woods will win at least one major, 11-to-4 that he will win two majors, 14-to-1 that he will win three and 33-to-1 odds that he will win them all. In other words, the odds of Woods winning the Grand Slam are equivalent to Adam Scott winning the Masters.

William Hill also has 11-to-10 odds that Woods will not win any major this year. All the wagers are predicated on him playing the Masters.

Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.