Tiger Woods is closer to returning than anybody knew

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Tiger Woods's Return a Matter of 'if,' not 'when'

Tiger Woods announced on Friday that he will not play in next week's Masters Golf Tournament. While the decision is not surprising, the timing actually suggests that he may be closer to returning than anybody knew.

Woods made the announcement on his website, noting that he is "not physically ready":

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After assessing the present condition of my back, and consulting with my medical team, I've decided it's prudent to miss this year's Masters.

I've been hitting balls and training daily, but I'm not physically ready. I've said all along that this time I need to be cautious and do what's best for my long-term health and career. Unfortunately, playing Augusta next week wouldn't be the right decision. I'm absolutely making progress, and I'm really happy with how far I've come, but I still have no timetable to return to competitive golf.

Woods had multiple back surgeries in the last six months, and a recent report said that his condition had "worsened" and that there was "no foreseeable return" to playing competitive golf.

Still, the timing of Tiger's announcement about the Masters is telling. First, nobody was expecting Tiger to play. That he felt the need to make an announcement at all, and that he waited this long to make it — six days before the tournament — is huge. This suggests that Woods thought that playing was at least a possibility. And if he thought playing in the Masters was at least possible, it suggests that he is not far from being ready to play.

Again, this is huge. Woods had gone from debates about whether he would break Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 career major championships to whether or not he would ever play again.

Friday's announcement suggests that Woods will indeed play again. In addition, it would seem that he will almost certainly play in the US Open, which will be held in mid-July at Oakmont Country Club in Pennsylvania.

Get ready, everybody. Tiger is coming back, and soon!

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Tiger Woods through the years
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Tiger Woods is closer to returning than anybody knew
Tiger Woods, is shown during Masters practice in Augusta, Ga. in this April 5, 1995 photo, will try to add one of the few amateur titles he does not already own to his collection as the NCAA golf championships begin in Ooltewah, Tenn. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)
Tiger Woods, of Stanford University, follows his drive on the thirteenth hole during the NCAA Men's Golf Championships in Ooltewah, Tenn., on Wednesday, May 29, 1996. Woods, a Stanford sophomore, is a two-time winner of the U.S. Amateur Championship. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Tiger Woods coaxes in the ball into the hole for a birdie on the par-4 third hole Saturday, Aug. 24, l996, during his U.S. Amateur match with Joel Kribel at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in North Plains, Ore.(AP Photo/Robin Loznak)
Tiger Woods kissed the U.S. Amateur trophy after winning an unprecedented third U.S. Amateur championship, Sunday, Aug. 25, l996, at the Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in North Plains, Ore. Woods won the title on the 38th hole.(AP Photo/Jack Smith)
Golfer Tiger Woods holds up the trophy after winning the Mercedes Championships in a one hole playoff at La Costa Country Club Sunday Jan. 12, 1997, in Carlsbad, Calif. The tournament was shortened to 54 holes because of rain and Woods and Tom Lehman played a one hole playoff. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
Masters third round leader Tiger Woods talks with reporters after finishing his round of play at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., Saturday, April 12, 1997. (AP Photo/ Dave Martin)
Masters champion Tiger Woods addresses the crowd after he receives his Green Jacket at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., Sunday, April 13, 1997. (AP Photo/ Amy Sancetta)
U.S. golfer Tiger Woods lines up a putt during the final day of the American Express Championship event in Valderrama, southern Spain Sunday Nov. 7 1999. (AP Photo/Denis Doyle)
Tiger Woods reacts on the 18th hole after winning the 2001 Masters at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., Sunday, April 8, 2001. Woods captured this second Masters title, defeating David Duval by two stokes. (AP Photo/Doug Mills)
US golf player Eldrick "Tiger" Woods after hitting a ball during a pro shoot out prior to the SAP Open in St. Leon-Rot, 60 miles (100km) south of Frankfurt, Germany, Tuesday, May 15, 2001. 156 players participate in this tournament from May 17 to May 20, 2001. (AP Photo/Daniel Maurer)
Tiger Woods tips his cap after birdeying the 18th hole Thursday, June 13, 2002, during the first round of the U.S. Open Golf Championship at the Black Course of Bethpage State Park in Farmingdale, N.Y. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)
Tiger Woods holds the 2002 U.S. Open Golf Championship trophy, Sunday, June 16, 2002, at the Black Course of Bethpage State Park in Farmingdale, N.Y. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Tiger Woods drives during early morning practice for the Ryder Cup at The Belfry, Sutton Coldfield, England,Thursday Sept. 26,, 2002. The competition is scheduled to get underway on Sept. 27.(AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
U.S golfer Tiger Woods during the first day of the Deutsche Bank-SAP Open tournament in in Gut Kaden near Hamburg, northern Germany on Thursday, May15, 2003. (AP Photo/Fabian Bimmer)
Tigers Woods chips onto the fifth green, Saturday May 15, 2004, during the third round of the Byron Nelson Championship in Irving, Texas. Woods finished Saturday with a 202 total, three strokes behind leader Sergio Garcia. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Tiger Woods watches his drive on the 10th tee during first round play of the 2005 Masters at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., Thursday, April 7, 2005. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Tiger Woods reacts to his tee shot on the first hole during second round play in the 87th PGA Championship at the Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J. Friday, Aug. 12, 2005. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Tiger Woods smiles as he discusses being named professional golf's Player of the Year for the eighth time in his career at a news conference at Sherwood Country Club, where he is preparing to host the Target World Challenge, in Thousand Oaks, Calif., Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2006. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
Tiger Woods chats on the eighth tee in the Pro-Am round of the Target World Challenge golf tournament at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, Calif., Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2007. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
Tiger Woods talks about his experience of caddying and the recuperation of his knee after his work at Torrey Pines where he caddied for contest winner John Abel Monday Oct. 20, 2008 in San Diego. Abel, of West Berlin, New Jersey won a contest that entitled him to have Tiger Woods caddie for him. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
FILE - In this Nov. 14, 2009 file photo, Tiger Woods, from the United States, lines up a putt during the third round of the Australian Masters golf tournament at the Kingston Heath Golf Club in Melbourne, Australia. Authorities say Woods has been seriously injured in a car wreck in Florida. The Florida Highway Patrol says the PGA star hit a fire hydrant and a tree as he pulled out of his driveway early Friday, Nov. 27, 2009, in his 2009 Cadillac sport utility vehicle. Woods was taken to Health Central Hospital. His condition was not immediately known, though the news release said his injuries were serious. (AP Photo/Andrew Brownbill, File)
Tiger Woods drives from the fifth hole tees during the final round of the Chevron World Challenge golf tournament at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 5, 2010. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)
Tiger Woods poses with his trophy after winning the Chevron World Challenge golf tournament at Sherwood Country Club, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2011, in Thousand Oaks, Calif. Woods closed with clutch birdie putts, including holing a 6-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole for a 3-under 69, to win by one shot over former Masters champion Zach Johnson. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)
Tiger Woods looks on during the third round of the World Challenge golf tournament at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, Calif., Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012. (AP Photo/Bret Hartman)
Tiger Woods tosses a leaf in the air to check the wind on the fifth tee during the final round of the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge golf tournament at Sherwood Country Club, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013, in Thousand Oaks, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Tiger Woods holds himself up on the first tee during the third round of the Hero World Challenge golf tournament on Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014, in Windermere, Fla. Woods lost his voice overnight and was nauseated before and during the third round at Isleworth. (AP Photo/Willie J. Allen Jr.)
Tiger Woods acknowledges the crowd after finishing his round on the ninth hole during the first round of the Wyndham Championship golf tournament in Greensboro, N.C., Thursday, Aug. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
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