Tiger finds sup­port from ri­vals he in­spired

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Tiger Woods never knew he had so many friends among his golf­ing ri­vals un­til he needed their sup­port af­ter a 15month back in­jury lay­off that ends to­day at the Hero World Chal­lenge. The for­mer world num­ber one re­turns in the 18-player in­vi­ta­tional af­ter hav­ing not played a com­pet­i­tive round since Au­gust 2015, the long­est lay­off of the 14-time ma­jor cham­pion’s ca­reer.

“I’ve missed be­ing out here with the guys. I miss the fra­ter­nity. I miss the ca­ma­raderie,” Woods said Tues­day. “I’ve had a lot more close friends out here than I thought.”

Two-time Masters cham­pion Bubba Wat­son says Woods has ben­e­fit­ted from bonds made in the days when he in­spired an epic fan fol­low­ing but seemed dis­tant and alone from ri­vals.

“Tiger is a great man and to see him open up, I think it’s for the bet­ter,” Wat­son said. “He has got a smile on the face and a bounce in his step. Who cares about the golf? “I think he’s learn­ing that now that we all miss him. We miss the in­ter­ac­tion with him, see­ing him prac­tice, just lis­ten­ing and learn­ing from him. So I think he sees how much he truly is missed.” Woods grew nearer to some play­ers dur­ing his time as a US as­sis­tant Ry­der Cup cap­i­tain ear­lier this year. “My re­la­tion­ships with a lot of these play­ers have got­ten closer, ei­ther through hang­ing out at the restau­rant (the Woods Jupiter) or if it’s out play­ing or the Ry­der Cup, go­ing out to din­ner and BSing, it has been fun,” Woods said.

“I’ve had a lot of friends help me. It’s hard to fathom how many play­ers have re­ally ral­lied and tried to help me come back and of­fered any kind of ad­vice, any kind of help, whether it’s with equip­ment, play­ing, get­ting out and go­ing out to din­ner, just be­ing part of the tour and part of the fra­ter­nity.”


Woods seemed a man alone dur­ing much of his ca­reer’s suc­cess and af­ter his in­fa­mous sex scan­dal, but has kin­dled new friend­ships from a new gen­er­a­tion of tour play­ers, those he in­spired rather than dom­i­nated. “I think Tiger has soft­ened now with his kids and the way he’s in­ter­acted in the (Ry­der Cup) team room, what he said, how he put his arm around cer­tain peo­ple and try­ing to in­spire them,” Wat­son said. “His own foun­da­tion is prob­a­bly chang­ing him, mak­ing him re­al­ize that there’s more than just golf or be­ing the great­est golfer of all time. That’s go­ing to help him in golf and it’s go­ing to help him in life.”

Wat­son, the 2012 and 2014 Masters winner, won last year’s Chal­lenge with a 25un­der par 263 to­tal over the 7,267-yard Ernie Els-de­signed layout at the Al­bany re­sort. The event is owned by Woods’ foun­da­tion and is putting down roots in the Ba­hamas af­ter three sites in three years. Wat­son is among those who have played it through sev­eral in­jury come­backs for Woods, whose ail­ing knees and back cut into his cam­paigns be­fore wip­ing out his 2015-16 sea­son. “It’s amaz­ing to see the out­pour­ing of sup­port from our side. He has meant so much to all of us. He has in­spired all of us, touched all of us in dif­fer­ent ways,” Wat­son said. “We’re just ex­cited, us guys in the field. We’re pulling for him and want him to be the best he can.”


Wat­son summed up the feel­ings of many golf fans who dream of Woods’ glory era but just want to see him play, in the same way that Jack Nick­laus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player were loved long past their peak days. “Just let us watch you for four days,” Wat­son said. “I don’t care what the score is. We want our cham­pion back. We want our Tiger Woods back.

“If he feels good af­ter four days and he’s not hurt­ing on Mon­day morn­ing, then he’ll play in Jan­uary. He’ll play these events that we’re used to see­ing him in and used to watch­ing him dom­i­nate and get ex­cited about.” — AFP

NASSAU: Tiger Woods of the United States takes a club from his bag, along­side cad­die Joe LaCava, on the fourth hole dur­ing the pro-am ahead of the Hero World Chal­lenge at Al­bany, The Ba­hamas yes­ter­day in Nassau, Ba­hamas. — AFP

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