"I tried to get him to come and play," said O'Meara, who has served as a mentor to Woods throughout his career. "Trust me. I said, 'Come and play with the old man, help carry me around in a best ball or something, like old times,' but he wasn't quite ready and if he's not ready, he's doing the right thing.
"I think he wasn't ready to face the public and that's probably why he's doing some of the interviews now, so maybe he just wants to get that part settled down a little bit, so that when he does go to Augusta that won't be the No. 1 factor that everyone wants to talk about."
On Sunday, Woods granted his first one-on-one interviews since a highly publicized sex scandal that was prompted by a Nov. 27 single-car accident in front of his home, speaking for five minutes apiece with ESPN and the Golf Channel.
"It was a step in the right direction," said John Cook, who lives in the same Isleworth community as Woods. "I don't know what more he needs to say. What does everybody want to know? He's said everything he needs to say. It's not like this is one big thing. His program is a step program. He's taking different steps. If people don't understand that and don't see that, then they're blind to the whole thing and they're ignorant and they're very selfish."
"I thought he did a good job," said Charles Howell III, who is another longtime friend of Woods. "No one can imagine what that guy is going through and what he's been through. It's a big step for him to come back and play and expose himself in front of a lot of people. I think it's good that he's starting to show his face and come out. If he puts that green jacket on in a few weeks, it will all go away."
Woods announced last week that he would return to competition at next month's Masters, an event he has won four times in the past.
"He's doing it at a venue that he wants to come back to at Augusta,"
O'Meara said. "It's a major championship. He'll be ready. Some of the boys have played with him here and they say he's playing great."
Asked whether Woods could claim a fifth green jacket in two weeks, O'Meara -- who won the Masters in 1998 -- was adamant.
"Absolutely," he said. "Without question. Absolutely."
Jason Sobel is a golf writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com.