Jack expects to see Tiger at Augusta

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- Jack Nicklaus has no idea when Tiger Woods will return to golf, but the Golden Bear expects to see the game's No. 1 player at the Masters.

"It would surprise me if he didn't [play]," Nicklaus said Wednesday. "Oh yeah, I can't imagine in a hundred years he is going to miss Augusta."

Nicklaus, 70, was playing in the Honda Classic pro-am at PGA National and addressed a variety of subjects afterward and a few related to Woods, who has been on an indefinite leave from the game. Woods reportedly returned home Saturday after a week of family counseling and has started practicing again.

"I've been very non-committal about everything because it's none of my business," Nicklaus said. "My guess is as a golfer he's going to want to try and play Augusta if he has his other things in order."

Woods, 34, is a four-time Masters champion. He has played the tournament every year since in 1995, when he was an amateur. His last victory at Augusta National came in 2005.

But Woods has not played in a tournament since winning the Australian Masters on Nov. 15. Woods gave no hint as to when he would play again last week in his first public comments since the Nov. 27 SUV accident outside his home led to a scandal and admissions of infidelity.

"I suspect he'll play something before Augusta," Nicklaus said. "Your guess is as good as mine. I would be very surprised if he didn't play something before Augusta."

If so, the best guess is the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where Woods has won six times, including the past two years. It is three weeks away from, and two weeks prior to, the Masters.

Woods, who has won 14 major championships, is four behind Nicklaus' record. Earlier this year, Nicklaus had said, "If Tiger is going to pass my record, I think this is a big year for him in that regard. If he doesn't play this year, obviously the chore is going to be a little tougher."

Nicklaus then referenced the fact that Woods has won seven of his 14 majors on this year's major venues: four at Augusta National, one at Pebble Beach (U.S. Open) and two at St. Andrews (British Open).

"He obviously loves Augusta, Pebble Beach and St. Andrews," Nicklaus said. "He basically owns all three of those places."

Nicklaus, who won the Masters six times, last played the tournament in 2005. This year, for the first time, he will serve as an honorary starter at the tournament along with four-time Masters champion Arnold Palmer.

Bob Harig is the golf writer for ESPN.com.