Woods to stay in self-imposed exlie

The wait for Tiger Woods’ return to golf goes on. He will definitely not be playing next week’s WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona.

The troubled world number one, not seen in public since crashing his car in the early hours of November 27, had until 10pm British time to either commit to the event or continue his self-imposed exile.

But when the deadline came his name was not on the list of the 64 players entered and so, with Phil Mickelson missing as well to spend time with his family, English pair Chris Wood and Ross McGowan are confirmed starters.

They are ranked 65th and 66th in the world respectively, so McGowan will face top seed Steve Stricker in next Wednesday’s first round and Wood will meet stablemate Lee Westwood, now the second seed.

Woods has been on an indefinite break after lurid stories about his private life hit the headlines.

Not even his former neighbour and close friend Mark O’Meara has spoken to him since the shocking scandal erupted and there have been no hints from his management company about a date for his comeback.

Accenture are one of the sponsors who have dropped Woods from their advertising and it would have surprised most people if he chose their tournament to return.

Much more likely, it seems, is either the CA Championship in Miami on March 11-14 or Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando two weeks later, although the latest rumours are of him possibly appearing first at the unofficial – and private – Tavistock Cup match on his home course Isleworth in Florida on March 22-23.

That is an annual made-for-television affair between the star-studded club members of Isleworth and Lake Nona, and Woods has played every year since the inaugural event in 2004.

All this assumes that the father-of-two, no longer revered the way he was and almost certain to have a rough ride from some fans on his Tour return, wants to play The Masters in April and because of that wants to have at least one tournament under his belt going to Augusta.

If Woods is still absent come the first major of the year then the odds on a whole season without him will drop dramatically.

Mickelson’s wife and mother were both diagnosed with breast cancer last year and he announced last week that he was taking Match Play week off.

If there are no more withdrawals before Monday’s official draw Westwood v Wood will be one of three all-European clashes on the first day.

Luke Donald, runner-up to Stricker in Los Angeles last Sunday, is set to take on Graeme McDowell, with Oliver Wilson up against Dubai Desert Classic winner Miguel Angel Jimenez.

Rory McIlroy, now up to a best-ever seventh in the world, would play American Kevin Na, with Padraig Harrington meeting Indian Jeev Milkha Singh, Paul Casey versus Canadian Stephen Ames and Ian Poulter versus ex-Open champion Justin Leonard.

Provisional draw (world rankings in brackets):

(2) Steve Stricker v (66) Ross McGowan; (34) Ryo Ishikawa v (35) Michael Sim; (18) Robert Karlsson v (51) Rory Sabbatini; (19) Ross Fisher v (50) Thongchai Jaidee; (10) Padraig Harrington v (59) Jeev Milkha Singh; (27) Anthony Kim v (42) Matt Kuchar; (11) Ian Poulter v (58) Justin Leonard; (27) Angel Cabrera v (43) Adam Scott

(6) Martin Kaymer v (63) Chad Campbell; (31) Vijay Singh v (38) Tim Clark; (15) Sergio Garcia v (54) David Toms; (22) Lucas Glover v (47) Anders Hansen; (7) Rory McIlroy v (62) Kevin Na; (30) Miguel Angel Jimenez v (39) Oliver Wilson; (14) Robert Allenby v (55) Peter Hanson; (23) Luke Donald v (46) Graeme McDowell

(4) Lee Westwood v (65) Chris Wood; (33) Nick Watney v (36) Yuta Ikeda; (17) Ernie Els v (52) Ryan Moore; (20) Retief Goosen v (49) Soren Hansen; (9) Henrik Stenson v (60) Ben Crane; (28) YE Yang v (41) Soren Kjeldsen; (12) Geoff Ogilvy v (57) Alex Noren; (25) Camilo Villegas v (44) Dustin Johnson

(5) Jim Furyk v (64) Scott Verplank; (32) Hunter Mahan v (37) Charl Schwartzel; (16) Sean O’Hair v (53) Simon Dyson; (21) Stewart Cink v (48) Edoardo Molinari; (8) Paul Casey v (61) Stephen Ames; (29) Alvaro Quiros v (40) Mike Weir; (13) Kenny Perry v (56) Brian Gay; (24) Zach Johnson v (45) Francesco Molinari

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