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‘Tiger Woods is not that intimidating but he still is a presence’

Defending champion Fowler pointed out that even though Woods had lost a bit of that intimidating presence he had in the late 90s and 2000s, he still stays a cut above.

other sports Updated: Nov 30, 2018 09:01 IST
Nilankur Das
Nilankur Das
Hindustan Times, Albany (Bahamas)
Tiger Woods,Hero World Challenge,Fowler
FILE PHOTO: Tiger Woods reacts to his putt on the 14th green during a match.(USA TODAY Sports)

“In recent years, everyone’s been willing him back to good health,” was how world No 2 Justin Rose summed up Tiger Woods’ comeback. The 18 pros at the Hero World Challenge, hosted by Woods, believe golf will be richer by the 14-time Major winner’s success.

According to CNBC, the final round of the Tour Championship, which Woods won in September --- his first win in five years, led to a 206 percent year-over-year surge in viewership. A Samford University journal says: “Top golfers like Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler bring a sizable crowd when they are playing; Tiger, on the other hand, brings a sea of people.”

It wasn’t a sea of people on Wednesday, but a decent pack of connoisseurs, autograph seekers and reporters walked the forever partying and laidback Albany Golf Course with Woods as he played the Pro-Am to gear up for Thursday’s serious action.

Defending champion Fowler, who practices regularly with Woods in Florida, pointed out that even though Woods had lost a bit of that intimidating presence he had in the late 90s and 2000s, when he clocked an incredible win percentage of above 30, he still stays a cut above.

“He still is a presence. His 14 Majors, 80 wins, it’s got to count for something…but it’s not intimidating. We all make a pretty good sound (of iron hitting ball), we can all make the ball do what we want it to do. But he has been pretty damn good at it,” Fowler, who followed Woods’ recovery closely, said.

Tony Finau, 29, who famously put his dislocated ankle back in place on the course and continued playing during the Open Championship earlier this year, said he grew up playing and beating Woods in his dreams.

“The US Open was the first one, when he won at arguably the greatest performance of all time at Pebble Beach in 2000. I started to picture myself playing against him at Augusta. We’ve all done it,” said Finau.

“To potentially have that opportunity to play against him and maybe play against him in the final group of a big tournament, the reality is there and it’s pretty exciting for someone like me who’s looked up to him since I was a kid,” he added.

Former British Open winner Henrik Stenson (42), who is of Woods’s age, said fans are happy to see the superstar back and that is the most important thing for the sport. “When he started off here last year, it was the beginning of a great comeback and he put himself in contention a lot of times, and ultimately winning the Tour Championship. He’s done great and a lot of fans are happy to see him back. He needs to stay fit and keeping enjoying golf,” said the Swede.

Fowler was upfront: “He’s arguably the greatest that’s ever played and arguably one of the best comebacks we’ve ever seen.”

First Published: Nov 30, 2018 08:37 IST