April 3, 2015 - 3:21am
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T.J. Auclair
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Tiger Woods
USA Today Sports Images
After a nearly two-month absence from the game for play that he termed, "not acceptable," Tiger Woods has announced he will play in the 2015 Masters.

The Tiger Woods leave of absence from the PGA Tour will end just in time for the season's first major.

The 14-time major champion -- a four-time Masters winner -- has announced that he will return from his self-imposed break from golf and avoid missing the Masters for the second straight year.

I'm playing in the Masters. Thanks for all the support. http://t.co/SYih4eSxUa

— Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) April 3, 2015

 

Here is the brief statement Woods had on www.tigerwoods.com:

"I'm playing in the Masters," Tiger said Friday afternoon. "It's obviously very important to me, and I want to be there.

"I've worked a lot on my game and I'm looking forward to competing. I'm excited to get to Augusta and I appreciate everyone's support."

Speculation that Woods would return to golf for the Masters grew on March 31 when his agent, Mark Steinberg, confirmed that Woods played 18 holes at Augusta National that day.

RELATED: Woods to take leave of absence | Current Masters field list | Masters coverage

Woods released a statement on Feb. 11 to say he was stepping away from the game, stating his play was "not acceptable" to compete in tournaments just days after withdrawing from the Farmer Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.

At the time, Woods said he would only return when he felt ready to compete.

Woods has not finished in the top 10 of a PGA Tour event since a tie for second at the Barclays in August of 2013.

He missed most of the 2013-14 season -- just seven starts total -- while recovering from back surgery.

In two starts this season, Woods missed the cut by 12 shots in the Waste Management Phoenix Open before the withdrawal at Torrey Pines.

That said, Augusta National has always seemed to be a comfortable place for Woods. In 17 starts there as a professional, Woods has finished in the top 10 an astounding 13 times, including the four victories. He has never missed the cut at the Masters as a professional.

Woods -- chasing the Jack Nicklaus record of 18 major championship wins -- has been stuck on 14 victories since his win at the 2008 U.S. Open. Woods last won the Masters in 2005. 

Woods confirms he'll play in Masters
Patrick Reed and Sergio Garcia
PGA Tour via YouTube
Patrick Reed (l) and Sergio Garcia found themselves in similar trouble on the par-3 ninth hole Thursday, and made identical great escapes.
The par-3 ninth hole at the Golf Club of Houston generally isn't regarded as the club's signature hole – but it sure is today, thanks to a pair of amazing chip-ins for birdie in the first round of the Shell Houston Open.
 
Hometown boy Patrick Reed crafted the first highlight after his drive wound up in the thick, slopy rough to the left of the green. Not only was his lie downhill, he also had to negotiate a bunker and land his ball on the short side of the green. 
 
Getting up and down from there would have been quite a feat. Chipping it in would have been almost unthinkable – except that's exactly what he did. 
 
 
Even better, that unlikely chip-in birdie was his last shot of the day, as he capped off his 4-under 68 in style.
 
Not long after, Sergio Garcia found himself in just about the same position. And he wound up with just the same result, with his birdie moving him to 1-under heading to his back nine.
 
Garcia's shot was extra-challenging because he had to stand in the sand with the ball a couple of inches above his feet. But Reed's lie was more downhill, and the grass seemed thicker around his ball. 
 
Here are the two shots. Check 'em out and decide for yourself which was the most memorable:
 
 
Sergio Garcia and Patrick Reed pull off almost identical birdie chip-ins
April 2, 2015 - 3:22pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Patrick Reed
PGA TOUR Twitter Account
Faced with an extremely difficult pitch shot on his final hole at the Golf Club of Houston on Thursday, Patrick Reed's execution was perfect.

It's a home game for Patrick Reed this week at the Shell Houston Open.

RELATED: Shell Houston Open scores | Mickelson chips in on first hole

The 24-year-old, four-time PGA Tour winner was clearly feeling at home too when faced with this difficult shot just outside of a bunker on the par-3 ninth hole at the Golf Club of Houston:

 

How good was that?

Even better, that was Reed's last hole of the day. The birdie capped off a 4-under 68.

Reed finishes round with spectacular birdie pitch
April 2, 2015 - 1:17pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Keegan Bradley
USA Today Sports Images
Keegan Bradley got a little creative when asking his girlfriend to caddie for him in the Masters Par 3 Contest.

One of the great traditions during Masters week is the playing of the Par-3 Contest the day before the actual tournament starts.

The pictures each year from the Par-3 are the best -- the children of players decked out from head to toe in a Masters green hat and white, caddie jumpsuit; loved ones caddying, friends caddying, etc.

A LOOK BACK: Photos from the 2014 Masters Par-3 Contest | Masters field

Well, Jillian Stacey -- the longtime girlfriend of 2011 PGA Champion Keegan Bradley -- tweeted out a special invitation she received on Thursday from Bradley:

 

Nice touch with the green roses, Keegs.

Bradley sends out special Masters caddie invitation
April 2, 2015 - 12:34pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Phil Mickelson
PGATour.com
In need of some confidence heading into the Masters, it's looking early on like the Shell Houston Open is just what the doctor ordered for Phil Mickelson.

Outside of a runner-up finish at the 2014 PGA Championship, Phil Mickelson hasn't played his best golf over the last 15 months. He missed the cut at the Masters a year ago for just the second time in his career.

This week, he's looking for some form before heading to Augusta, Ga., where he's looking to win his fourth green jacket.

RELATED: Shell Houston Open leaderboard | Masters field | Masters coverage

If Thursday's start to the Shell Houston Open, Mickelson might be finding that form at just the right time.

After missing the green with his approach on the par-4 10th hole at the Golf Club of Houston -- his first hole of the tournament -- Mickelson had his caddie pull the flag from the hole before he settled in for the birdie chip.

Here's what happened:

 

Not a bad way to get a round started.

At the time of this posting, Mickelson was 6 under through 12 holes and had an share of the early lead.

 

Mickelson chips in for birdie to start Houston Open
April 2, 2015 - 10:45am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Iceberg golf
YouTube
A couple of friends took to Lake Michigan recently with a paddle board, some golf equipment and cameras. They decided to play "Iceberg Golf."

Seth Haley, a filmmaker and photographer, posted this incredibly cool video to YouTube on Wednesday of Joshua Nowicki (another photographer), using a stand up paddle board and icebergs to play "Iceberg Golf" on Lake Michigan:

 

Our friends at BleacherReport.com found the story from Wilx.com, which included this quote from Nowicki:

Seth and I both spend a lot of time at Lake Michigan and have been talking about various photo and film project we could do with the ice on Lake Michigan. Looking at the shapes of the ice on the lake reminded me of a green on a golf course and I semi-jokingly said that I would like to play golf out there. After some discussion we decided that it was quite possible and I went out to give it a try.

Is that something you'd try out?  

Iceberg golf looks insane