Reuters - Thu, 18 Mar 21:39:00 2010
Golfing great Jack Nicklaus has expressed surprise that Tiger Woods will break his five-month exile by going into next month's US Masters at Augusta without playing any warm-up event.
"I fully expected Tiger to come back to play the Masters and that will be good for Augusta," said Nicklaus, who made a guest appearance at the Dar Es Salam course ahead of the Hassan II Trophy which started on Thursday.
"I am surprised he is not playing some place before that, but then Tiger is Tiger and he'll come back ready to play.
"Tiger's a phenomenal athlete but if I went to Augusta cold, I would not have been at my best," said Nicklaus, 70.
"If you remember the last time I won the Masters (1986) Seve (Ballesteros) went to that Masters not having played very much golf. That translated to me as that when he came down the stretch, Seve was not going to be as tough as he would be.
"So when he hit the ball into the water at 15 there was a type of swing you would expect from somebody who wasn't sharp.
"When you're sharp that doesn't happen. When you're not sharp those kind of things happen and being sharp is being tournament-tested on a recent basis.
"That would be the only negative for Tiger in that he would not be tournament-tested. But as a golfer he will be fine."
Nicklaus hosted a clinic on the Dar Es Salam course with 1985 European Ryder Cup-winning captain Tony Jacklin.
Their presence brought the range to a standstill with many competitors, including Irish players Damien McGrane, Darren Clarke and Gareth Maybin, breaking from their practice to pick up tips from the pair.
Jacklin echoed Nicklaus's remarks about Woods, who announced in December that he was taking an indefinite break from the game to save his marriage after revelations emerged about his repeated infidelity.
"I'm surprised he's not getting his feet wet somewhere else," Jacklin said. "I am going to be as fascinated as everyone else to see what happens. The Masters will have the biggest TV audience it's ever had and, like everyone else, I will be watching with anticipation."
Nicklaus said he believed that his record of 18 Major triumphs would eventually be broken by Woods.
"Yes, I still expect Tiger to go past my record," he said.
"His chances of doing that are quite good - he has five more Majors to win to break my record.
"He's still the best out there so we'll just have to wait and see."