Nassau - World top-10 rivals to Tiger Woods said on
Wednesday they expect the 14-time major winner needs time and patience before
there's any chance he regains the form that made him a legend.
Woods ends the longest layoff of his career after nearly 16
months in Thursday's opening round of the Hero World Challenge, an 18-player
invitational featuring six top-10 players. Number eight Patrick Reed will tee
off alongside US compatriot Woods at 19:00.
"I'm really excited for golf to have Tiger back and to
have that honour, it's going to be awesome. I'm looking forward to it. It
should be fun," Reed said.
"I still want to beat him. Tiger still wants to beat
me. I want him to play well not only for the game of golf, I want him to play
well for him. But at the same time you're out there trying to win a golf
The 72-hole showdown at 7,303-yard Albany Golf Club in the
Bahamas is the first competitive event for Woods in 466 days, since finishing
10th at Greensboro in August 2015 and undergoing back surgery twice in the weeks
"This is a perfect week for him to come back being
fully healthy," two-time major winner Jordan Spieth said. "Less
people are out there watching. He can play quickly. He's playing around a lot
of people he knows on a place he's familiar with."
But fifth-ranked Spieth warned that Woods will not challenge
for major titles instantly.
"I think he has accepted the fact he will be
patient," Spieth said. "Like anybody that takes off a year and a
half, you don't just come back and expect anything. It's going to take a little
"I just hope everyone gives him time. I hope he has the
time to fall into a rhythm and just get enough tournaments where he can build
Just the hope of seeing Woods on form again has created a
buzz in the wealthy Caribbean enclave.
"He's still just turning every head," Spieth said.
"He's very excited, seems very confident. We all hope for many reasons
that he comes back fully healthy and his game's fully back."
One of those reasons is to do what South Korean Yang
Yong-Eun did at the 2009 PGA Championship, outplaying Woods over the last 18
holes for a major crown.
"It was a dream for all of us young guys to one day
grow up and battle Tiger on a Sunday when he was playing his best," Spieth
said. "And see if you can Y.E. Yang it, see if you can pull off a shot
where you can take him down."
Reigning British Open champion Henrik Stenson, the world
number four from Sweden, said Woods, who turns 41 in a month, might never match
the glory days of his 2000-2001 Tiger Slam.
"I think it would be hard, where golf is at right now,
to be as dominant as Tiger was even if Tiger were now to play as good as he did
in 2000," Stenson said. "The main thing is that his back is in good
shape and he's healthy."
Stenson, however, isn't ready to write off more magic from
898th-ranked Woods, whose 79 career PGA titles are three shy of Sam Snead's
"He has been out of competitiveness for quite some time
so it might be a little while before you find your bearings again,"
Stenson said. "But he has done some remarkable things throughout his
career and if there's someone that can jump right back up and play some great
golf again, that would be him."
Third-ranked Dustin Johnson, the reigning US Open champion,
won't rule out anything where Woods is concerned.
"When he was at his peak, he was very impressive.
Wouldn't surprise me if he got back to, I don't know about quite that calibre,
but who knows," Johnson said.
"He has been working very hard at it, so I expect him
to play pretty well. Whether he'll win or not, that's a whole different feat. I
predict he'll do pretty well."