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"It would surprise me if he didn't [play]" Nicklaus told ESPN Wednesday during the Honda Classic Pro-Am at PGA National. "I can't imagine in a hundred years he is going to miss Augusta."
Woods, a four-time Masters champion, has not played in a tournament since the Nov. 27 SUV accident that brought his various extramartial affairs to light. The embattled golf champ gave no indication on his expected return to golf during his first public comments on Feb 19.
"I've been very noncommittal about anything as it's not my business," the legendary golfer said. "But as it relates to him playing golf, my guess is as a golfer he's going to want to try and play Augusta if he's got his other things in order."
Earlier this year, Nicklaus said 2010 would be a pivotal year if Woods wanted to close in on the veteran's 18 major championship wins. Three of the major touraments slated for this year will be on courses Woods is known for dominating: St. Andrews, Augusta National and Pebble Beach.
Woods reportedly returned to his Orlando-area home last weekend and resumed practice after spending a week in family counseling. To many insiders, this is a sign that he's preparing for a return to the course in the near future. The Masters begins April 8.
"I suspect he'll play something before Augusta," Nicklaus added.
When ESPN golf writer Bob Harig asked where Woods will make his much-anticipated return, Nicklaus just shook his head.
"Your guess is as good as mine," he said. "He's a great athlete. He'll figure out his own problems. But as a golfer, he'll come back and get his game in shape and play."