Tiger Set to Return to the Down Under!
By Stephanie Wei under Tiger Woods

Tiger hoisting the '09 Australian Masters trophy in Melbourne, less than 2 weeks before the scandal broke

Tiger Woods will play in Sydney for the first time in 15 years at the Australian Open in November, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

“I’m very excited to be competing in the Australian Open,” Woods said in a statement.

“I haven’t played in the event since 1996 and I’m anxious to return.

“I have a great affinity for playing golf in Australia and I’m looking forward to competing against an outstanding field at The Lakes.”

Despite slipping out of the world’s top 20, having not played since the Masters in April, Woods’ first appearance in Sydney since finishing fifth as a rookie pro in the 1996 Australian Open is sure to prove a huge drawcard.

“Tiger Woods will complement what is already set to be a huge summer for Australian golf,” Australian PGA chief executive Brian Thorburn said.

“Tiger will be joined in Australia by the world’s best golfers and, while we have already made plenty of player announcements, we still intend to make more.”

In the pre-hydrant era, Tiger charged around $3 million dollars for an appearance fee. While it’s probably less than it was in ’09, I can’t imagine the world’s No. 28 demanding less than seven figures still. Whatever it is, taxpayers will pick up the tab, but apparently they’ll get their money’s worth:

Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner said the 35-year-old’s appearance would provide an estimated $10 million economy boost for the state.

“We are focused on having the strongest and most compelling events calendar in the country and sport obviously plays a key role in that calender,” Stoner said.

The Presidents Cup will be held the week following the Australian Open at Royal Melbourne. If Tiger’s form improves in the remaining tournaments of the year, American captain Fred Couples will likely select him as one of his wildcards. Couples has said that he’ll encourage members of his team to play in Sydney, particularly those who are captain’s picks.

Tiger has fond memories in the Down Under. His last professional title came at the Australian Masters at Kingston Heath in Melbourne on November 15, 2009, when we all still thought he had the perfect life and the perfect family.

Of course, it was that week where the National Enquirer found their smoking gun to publish the story on his relationship with Rachel Uchitel. In the weeks following, revelations of Tiger’s multiple affairs surfaced, along with other damning evidence — you know, like, emails from former-occasional-travel-agent-now-caddie Bryon Bell, who will take the place of longtime looper Steve Williams at this week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational for Tiger’s first event in nearly three months.