International press lambasts Woods

LONDON --- Tiger Woods' planned return to golf at the Masters Tournament drew plenty of criticism from the international press on Wednesday, and the most scathing comments came from Britain.

Daily Mirror columnist Oliver Holt questioned the top-ranked golfer's reasons for coming back to play at Augusta National.

"How typical of the man to hijack the world's most famous golf tournament," Holt wrote. "How could he turn Augusta into a circus like this? Does his vanity know no limits?"

Woods drove his SUV into a fire hydrant and tree outside his Florida home in November, an accident that set off sordid tales of extramarital affairs. Woods announced Dec. 11 that he would take an indefinite break from golf to try to save his marriage, then made a public apology on Feb. 19.

"When he finally sticks his head above the parapet before a hungry media at Augusta National, don't be surprised if he refuses to talk about anything relating to matters that predate Feb. 19 on the ingenuous grounds that he has already dealt with that," Douglas Lowe wrote in the Scottish paper The Herald . "But let's wait and see before reaching a conclusion."

The Daily Telegraph 's Mark Reason questioned Woods for making his return so soon after February's apology, where he took no questions.

"All that halting guff about maybe returning to golf one day was just a great big fib," Reason wrote. "Tiger, Tiger, pants on fire, nose as long as a telephone wire.

"How will the kids believe in him now? Woods wouldn't know the truth if it came wrapped in a polyurethane cover and had Nike stamped on it. He'd just want to know how much he could spin it."

Not everyone attacked the American, however. French sports daily L'Equipe had only a small news story about Woods' return, while Italian paper La Gazzetta dello Sport featured a full page on the announcement, saying the Masters was the natural place for him to come back.

In Britain's Daily Mail , golf correspondent Derek Lawrenson said Woods chose the Masters because Augusta National would be able to keep the media at bay.

"All those showbiz Web sites that have plagued Woods' life for the last three months would have more chance of an audience at the White House than gaining access at Augusta," Lawrenson wrote.

Olazabal to skip Masters

LONDON --- The manager for two-time Masters Tournament champion Jose Maria Olazabal says he will pull out of the tournament in April because he is suffering again from rheumatism.

Sergio Gomez told the Press Association on Wednesday that Olazabal has pain in his shoulder, forearms and hands and is unable to swing properly. He said Olazabal cannot practice for much more than an hour and that traditional medicine is not working.

Olazabal won the Masters in 1994 and 1999. The only year he missed was in 1996, when he sat out the season after being diagnosed with rheumatoid polyarthritis.

The 44-year-old Spaniard, inducted last year into the World Golf Hall of Fame, has not played a tournament since he finished 14th in the Castello Masters in Spain last October.

-- Associated Press

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