Golf

Woods not ruling out Masters

Former world No. 1's new book on his maiden Major gives an insight into his views on race

Tiger Woods has not given up hope of competing in next month's US Masters and is trying everything he can to overcome back problems, the former world No. 1 said yesterday.

Woods, speaking during an interview with US broadcaster ABC's Good Morning America programme, returned to the US PGA Tour in January after a 17-month absence but has struggled with a nagging back problem.

Should the four-time Masters champion be unable to compete at Augusta National, it would be the third time in four years that he has missed the tournament.

"I'm trying everything I can just to be able to get back and play," Woods said, when asked if he thought he had a chance of playing in the April 6-9 tournament.

"I love that event. It's meant so much to me in my life.

"It's the first Major I ever played back in '95.

"It has so much history and meaning to me that I'd love to get back."

Since returning this year, the 41-year-old missed the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open and shot an opening-round 77 a week later in Dubai, before withdrawing due to a back spasm. He has not played a tournament since.

Woods - now ranked 742nd in the world - was in New York to promote his new book The 1997 Masters: My Story about his first Major title, which he won in record-breaking style.

Around 250 fans and autograph hounds, some of whom had camped overnight, lined up outside a Manhattan book store yesterday to attend a book signing by the American.

Publisher Barnes and Noble's spokesman said they had enough interest to accommodate a thousand people, but had to limit the crowd based on Woods' availability.

Dressed casually in a long-sleeve grey striped shirt, the golf star received enthusiastic applause as he made his way to the stage and flashed a big smile at his reception.

Attendees were allowed a maximum of two signed books, without personalisation, and Woods exchanged pleasantries as he signed on the title page.

"He was really nice. Just a normal guy," said Claudia, as she was escorted to the exit escalator by the attentive security detail.

"I was very surprised. Nice signature and pretty pleasant," said a man who made a seven-hour drive from Pittsburgh for the signing.

HEAVEN

A grey-haired fan got a handshake. "Now I can go to heaven," said Kenny.

But people weren't always as enamoured with Woods.

Despite largely being quite guarded on politics or race, the half-black, half-Asian Woods shed light on the difficulties of being a minority trailblazer in golf in his book.

He recalled rocks being hurled at his home as a child in southern California and related about how he could not change in the same locker room as his friends at certain golf clubs, or even buy a drink there.

Augusta itself has a history of discriminating against black golfers, and the 14-time Major champion admits to being unimpressed on his first visit to the course as an amateur in 1995.

He wrote: "Maybe I was underwhelmed because the club had excluded black golfers from playing for so long."

On winning his first Green Jacket by a dozen shots in 1997, he opined: "I knew none of this meant, necessarily, things would change dramatically for minorities in golf.

"I hoped my win would encourage them to play, or to chase their dreams, whatever they were.

"But it would have been naive of me to think my win would mean the end of 'the look' when a person from any minority walked into some golf clubs, especially the game's private clubs. I only hoped my win, and how I won, might put a dent in the way people perceived black people.

"I hoped my win would open some doors for minorities. My biggest hope, though, was we could one day see one another as people and people alone.

"I wanted us to be colour blind. Twenty years later, that has yet to happen."

- WIRE SERVICES

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