Tiger Woods is back at Royal Liverpool Golf Club this week and his rivals for major glory could not be happier.
The dominant world golfer for the last 17 years has missed the first two major tournaments of the year – the Masters and the US Open – as he took time off to recover from back surgery he underwent in late March.
In that time, TV viewing figures for golf were substantially down amid fears that the succession of crippling injuries sustained by the American in the last few years could spell the start of the end of his career.
But Woods returned to action late last month at the Congressional Club – where he missed the cut – and coming into the this week’s British Open at Hoylake, he has said that he is fit again and raring to go.
Doubts have been expressed that he can contend again so quickly in the sport’s top tournaments, but his mere presence has brought a collective sigh of relief from players, fans and officials alike.
“Tiger Woods has been the face of our game for 15 or nearly 20 years, I guess,” said Rory McIlroy, another former world number one, who is friendly with Woods. “So to have him playing and competing is important.
“It’s great to see him back. He always adds a lot of buzz and excitement for the tournament.”
The sentiments were echoed by Australia’s Adam Scott, who took on the mantle of world number one this year and who is looking for a first British Open win after near misses in the last two years.
“It’s good for golf. It generates so much interest,” he said.
“And I am sure when he is back out here; he’ll want to take his spot back at the top.”
As for Woods, he is under no illusions that he is facing one of the biggest challenges of his career as he tries to match and then better the all-time record of 14 major titles held by Nicklaus.
“I think it’s getting harder every year just because the field gets deeper,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 17th, 2014.
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