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LONDON - Tiger Woods's planned return to golf at the Masters drew plenty of criticism from the international press yesterday, 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 over a fire hydrant and into a tree outside his Florida home in November, an accident that set off sordid tales of extramarital affairs. Woods announced on December 11 that he would take an indefinite break from golf to try to save his marriage, then made a public apology on February 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 February 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."
TheDaily Telegraph's Mark Reason called the 34-year-old Woods a liar for making his return so soon after last month'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."
In the Toronto Star, columnist Dave Perkins made fun of Woods's extramarital affairs.
"So that's what Tiger Woods meant when he said he would be fighting the temptations: He's coming back to golf at a club that doesn't allow women," Perkins wrote. "Bada-boom."
In Sweden, the country of wife Elin Nordegren's birth, Aftonbladet columnist Lasse Anrell wrote that Woods was in the clear to play golf again after "four months of mourning, four months of apologies, four months of crying, four months of healing ..." But Anrell added that Woods needs to make a strong showing at the Masters to regain his prior status.
"He knows - just as well as all the media strategists and brand analysts - that he needs to win for this to be a really good resurrection of Tiger Woods the brand," Anrell wrote. "A 27th place will not be a hit for the brand strategists. It needs to be top three."
Not everyone attacked the American, however. French sports daily L'Equipe had only a small news story about Woods's 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.
"Apparently the expected onslaught of the media, curiosity seekers and fans has convinced (Woods) to return at the most important and most protected venue and for him the most familiar, skipping any warm-up tournaments," Gazzetta wrote. "Even if this increases the risks, especially for someone who is used to winning all the time."
In Britain's Daily Mail, golf correspondent Derek Lawrenson said Woods chose the Masters as his comeback tournament because Augusta National would be able to keep the media at bay.
"All those showbiz websites that have plagued Woods's life for the last three months would have more chance of an audience at the White House than gaining access at Augusta," Lawrenson wrote.
John Hopkins, the golf correspondent for The Times, said Woods's return will eclipse anything and everything Augusta has ever seen before.
"And though President (Dwight) Eisenhower was a regular and President (Bill) Clinton also played there, both requiring extra protection, the security when Woods makes his reappearance will be enormous," he wrote. - Sapa-AP