The Masters - Woods paired with Choi and Kuchar

Reuters - Tue, 06 Apr 18:16:00 2010

South Korean KJ Choi and American Matt Kuchar will have to contend with the Tiger Woods frenzy after being grouped with the world number one for the first two rounds of the Masters on Thursday and Friday.

Tiger Woods at Augusta National - 0

Scandal-hit Woods, a four-times champion at Augusta National, will be making his highly anticipated return to professional golf after a self-imposed exile of almost five months.

The 34-year-old American has not competed since winning the Australian Masters on November 15 following startling revelations that he had a string of extra-marital affairs.

Predictably, the comeback of Woods has overshadowed everything else in the build-up to the year's first major and he is scheduled to tee off with Choi and Kuchar at 1842 BST in Thursday's opening round at Augusta.

Asked on Monday if he felt ready to clinch his 15th major title after a lengthy break, Woods replied: "Nothing's changed.

"I'm going to go out there and try to win this thing.

"A lot has happened in my life over the past five months, and I'm here at the Masters to play and compete. And just really excited about doing that."

Woods and company will tee off in the second-to-last group on Thursday, guaranteeing that at least half of his opening round will be televised live in the United States.

Twice Masters champion Phil Mickelson has been drawn with Australian Robert Allenby and 2008 PGA Championship winner Yang Yong-eun of South Korea for the first two rounds. They start at 1535 BST on Thursday.

In-form Ernie Els, who has triumphed twice in his last three US Tour appearances, will tee off with American Anthony Kim and Japan's Ryo Ishikawa two groups in front of Mickelson and company.

Argentina's Angel Cabrera, who won last year's Masters in a playoff with Americans Chad Campbell and Kenny Perry, will launch his title defence with South Korean An Byeong-hun and American veteran Jim Furyk at 15:24.

In another high-profile grouping, three-times Major winner Padraig Harrington of Ireland will set off in the company of Open champion Stewart Cink and South African Charl Schwartzel at 18:20.

First off at 12:50, following ceremonial tee shots by golfing greats Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, will be Australian Nathan Green, American Heath Slocum and South African Louis Oosthuizen.

Groupings for the first two rounds (first time listed is first round, add five hours for UK time players US unless noted, a-amateur):

0740 Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus - honorary starters

0750/1057 Nathan Green (Australia), Heath Slocum, Louis Oosthuizen (South Africa)

0801/1108 Craig Stadler, John Merrick, Jerry Kelly

0812/1119 Ian Woosnam (Britain), Brian Gay, Marc Leishman (Australia)

0823/1130 Bernhard Langer (Germany), Scott Verplank, a-Brad Benjamin

0834/1141 John Senden (Australia), David Toms, Graeme McDowell (Britain)

0845/1152 Mark O'Meara, Rory Sabbatini (South Africa), a-Nathan Smith

0856/1214 Martin Kaymer (Germany), Geoff Ogilvy (Australia), Luke Donald (Britain)

0907/1225 Tom Watson, Tim Clark (South Africa), Steve Marino

0918/1236 Bill Haas, Todd Hamilton, Anders Hansen (Denmark)

0929/1247 Dustin Johnson, Oliver Wilson (Britain), Alvaro Quiros (Spain)

0940/1258 Mike Weir (Canada), Lee Westwood (Britain), a-Matteo Manassero (Italy)

1002/1309 Chad Campbell, Francesco Molinari (Italy), Paul Casey (Britain)

1013/1320 Ernie Els (South Africa), Anthony Kim, Ryo Ishikawa (Japan)

1024/1331 Angel Cabrera (Argentina), Jim Furyk, a-An Byeong-hun (South Korea)

1035/1342 Phil Mickelson, Robert Allenby (Australia), Yang Yong-eun (South Korea)

1046/1353 Retief Goosen (South Africa), Hunter Mahan, Robert Karlsson (Sweden)

1057/0750 Ben Crane, Simon Dyson (Britain), Michael Campbell (New Zealand)

1108/0801 Larry Mize, Ryan Palmer, Chris Wood (Britain)

1119/0812 Sandy Lyle (Britain), Justin Leonard, Kevin Na

1130/0823 Ben Crenshaw, Steve Flesch, a-Ben Martin

1141/0834 Ryan Moore, Ross Fisher (Britain), Nick Watney

1152/0845 Trevor Immelman (South Africa), Soren Hansen (Denmark), John Rollins

1214/0856 Vijay Singh (Fiji), Jason Dufner, Sean O'Hair

1225/0907 Thongchai Jaidee (Thailand), Ben Curtis, Soren Kjeldsen (Denmark)

1236/0918 Camilo Villegas (Colombia) Kenny Perry, Rory McIlroy (Britain)

1247/0929 Zach Johnson, Henrik Stenson (Sweden), a-Han Chang-won (South Korea)

1258/0940 Fred Couples, Sergio Garcia (Spain), Shingo Katayama (Japan)

1309/1002 Miguel Angel Jimenez (Spain), Edoardo Molinari (Italy), Lucas Glover

1320/1013 Charl Schwartzel (South Africa), Stewart Cink, Padraig Harrington (Ireland)

1331/1024 Yuta Ikeda (Japan), Ian Poulter (Britain), Steve Stricker

1342/1035 Tiger Woods, Matt Kuchar, K.J. Choi (South Korea)

1353/1046 Adam Scott (Australia), David Duval, Ricky Barnes

Follow live text commentary and leaderboard from 1245 BST on Thursday.

Reuters

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