Furyk's guess on Tiger's return: Masters

Jim Furyk, the fifth-ranked player in the world, told a Florida newspaper that he thinks Tiger Woods will be back for the Masters in April.

"If I had to bet, I'd bet we'd see him at Augusta," Furyk told the Florida Times-Union earlier this week. "Tiger hasn't come out and made any real public statements, so it's hard to figure out. Everyone is guessing it will be Augusta. Whether he comes out earlier, or there, I have no idea."

The British bookmaking world seems to agree. British bookmaker William Hill has cut the odds on Tiger Woods playing at the Masters.

Shortly after the crash, William Hill was giving 4-6 odds that Woods would be back in time for the Masters. On Wednesday, the company cut the odds to 1-4.

"We've only taken money on the one side that he will be playing there, so that's why we shortened it right up," William Hill spokesman Rupert Adams said, according to The Associated Press. "Everybody who's had a bet seems absolutely certain that he'll make it to Augusta."

Adams said William Hill had taken 224 bets and 217 of them are that Woods will be playing at Augusta National. At 1-4 odds, a $4 bet returns $5; at 4-6 odds, a $6 bet returns $10.

Adams said the bets have come from all over the world, with at least one coming from Dubai via the Internet.

Woods, the world's No. 1 golfer, is taking an indefinite break from the game since a November car crash outside his home in Florida and reports of marital infidelity. He is missing this week's PGA Tour event in San Diego for only the third time in his professional career.

Furyk told the Times-Union that when Woods does return, there will be "mixed feelings" among his fellow players.

"There will be people who probably won't be as friendly and people who are," Furyk said, according to the Times-Union. "Tiger probably understands that and realizes that the people who he considers his friends will pat him on the back and encourage him. It's been a real life-changing experience. I'm sure you've seen it with friends and I've seen it with friends. Some people take sides. He probably expects some people to be pretty cold about it and some will support him and give him encouragement."

Woods and Furyk have paired together nine times in Presidents Cup matches and four Ryder Cup matches, all in 2006.

Rocco Mediate, speaking to the media at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines on Tuesday, said he doesn't know when Woods will return. He said he hasn't talked to Woods since last year.

Mediate and Woods had a memorable U.S. Open playoff battle at Torrey Pines two years ago -- won by Woods.

"Whatever the problem he has is ... he'll fix it," Mediate said. "He's still the No. 1 guy; it's not available. As long as he's breathing, it's not available."

Woods has won the Masters four times. William Hill's Adams said it's the "perfect" tournament for Woods to make his return.

"In terms of security and everything else like that, the Masters is perhaps the perfect place. Not just any old chap can get there. The crowds are pretty quiet," Adams said. "They aren't the sort who are going to start giving him a bit of the old leg-pulling halfway through.

"I really can see why everyone's backing it."

William Hill is also offering 5-2 odds that Woods will win this year's Masters, making him the favorite. But bettors will get their stake back if Woods doesn't play. Phil Mickelson is the second favorite at 11-2.

"He's the favorite for every tournament he plays in," Adams said. "It's as simple as that."

Woods has won 14 major titles, and needs four more to equal Jack Nicklaus' record of 18.

William Hill is offering 33-1 odds that Woods will win all four majors in 2010, 16-1 that he will win three, 4-1 for two and 11-8 for one. Bettors can also get 5-4 odds that Woods will not win any of the majors, but he has to play in all four for the bets to be valid.

Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.