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Spotlight on Woods, Bubba says we all want him back

Press Trust of India  |  Nassau (Bahamas) 

Tiger Woods will be the cynosure of all eyes when he makes a long-awaited return to the course in the Hero World Challenge -- his own tournament -- amid firm support from fellow players such as Bubba Watson, who says the fraternity wants him back irrespective of how he fares.

The 72-hole PGA Tour tournament, featuring 18 of the world's best golfers and hosted by the former world number one American, will be held at the Albany Golf Club from December 1 to 4.

Even as heavy rain lashed the roof of the makeshift arrangement where Woods was taking questions, he looked relaxed and showed no signs of physical discomfort.

About a year ago, though, he was not able to get up on his own from the bed owing to a bad back, and a question mark hung over his future.

"There was a lot of trepidation," he said, adding, "Not being able to get out of bed, not being able to move, how can I expect to come out here and swing a golf club at 120 miles an hour?. That's just two different words."

Woods, a 14 Major and 79-time PGA Tour winner who will turn 41 next month, played his last competitive round in August 2015, at the Wyndham Championship.

He talked about the support he received in making a return from a 16-month layoff, the longest of his illustrious career.

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

"These guys have been great. And there's a lot of other guys who aren't playing this event who have been like that. So I've had a lot more close friends out here than I thought," he said.

Woods said he was concerned about a couple of things, as far as his game is concerned, going into tomorrow's event.

"I would say probably the most concerned is trying to get a feel for the distance. I haven't had adrenaline in my system in a while and having that surge of adrenaline through my system, how much further is this ball going to be going.

"I know it generally is a half a club, but is it going to be more than that because I haven't played or is it going to be less than that or be about that? That part, I've always been throughout my career I've been pretty good at hitting the ball pin high. I'm more I'm concerned about that, what my body's going to be feeling, the energy, the surge of adrenaline going through my system.

"As far as concerns besides that, No. Confident. I've got all the clubs that I've tested and I feel pretty confident with. I know that after this event I'm going to do more testing and figure a few more things out, but as of right now I'm ready to go.

Though a lot of things have changed, Woods said his goal still is to win.

"I'm gonna give it my best, I'm gonna focus. I'm gonna do what I can do and put the ball in the correct spots and try and bury these puts and post scores, get myself in that mix come Sunday afternoon. I know that's a tall order since I've been away from the game for so long. I've made a lot of different changes to my game.

"The mindset is to go out and beat these guys, I know they're gonna go try and beat me. I'm setting out on phase two in my life, I call it phase two because I can't play this game forever at a competitive high level. Would I love to? Yes. Guys have played into their 70's and 80's but they're not competing at world class events. You can still play golf for a lifetime and I want to play golf for a lifetime but I know I can't compete out there for a lifetime."

Besides Woods was seated Pawan Munjal, chief of Hero MotoCorp, the tournament's title sponsor.

Defending champion Watson, who is also in the fray, was thrilled to see the kind of support for Woods.

"It's amazing to see the outpouring of support from our side. These guys who are here this week, 17 of us and then Tiger, we are all here because of Tiger and what he has done off the course but we are here to support him as well.

"We want him back out there. We don't listen to what people are saying about us negatively or positively. It's really about your own self and what you believe in yourself.

"Tiger doesn't need to play again, I think he's good, I think he's money is good, so he is okay. I feel he is playing golf now just for himself and just showing his own pride that he can do it again and it doesn't matter what other people think. So our support is just his own. We will give him the shirt off our backs if we need to.

First Published: Wed, November 30 2016. 16:33 IST