World number one Dustin Johnson believes it will be “good for golf” if Tiger Woods returns to the sport.
Woods announced this week that he will make his competitive return after nine months injured at the Hero World Challenge in Barbados at the end of November.
The 14-time major champion has not played since withdrawing from February’s Dubai Desert Classic with his latest back injury, and during that time he was also arrested for reckless driving – a charge that he pleaded guilty to last week but avoided jail time.
Ahead of Woods’ much-anticipated return, Johnson hopes his compatriot can return fit and healthy after eight injury comebacks in the last nine years, and believes the prospect of him competing for trophies will be “great for everyone”.
“I hope so. It’s good for the game of golf, it’s really good for the Tour [that Tiger Woods returns],” Johnson said, having finished tied-second at last weekend’s WGC-HSBC Champions event in China after losing a six-shot lead on the final day.”
“I really hope that he’s healthy and that he can come back and compete because it’s great for everyone.
“Golf is in a great spot right now, golf is doing very, very well. Tiger coming back and playing well is definitely good for the game. I hope he does come back, he’s healthy and he can come back and compete. Because, like I said, he’s good for the game of golf.”
Johnson joins a number of high-profile players in welcoming Woods back, with Bubba Watson also lending his support to his fellow-American this week, and it could well be a sign of Woods’ effort to build friendships over the last few years after taking a vice-captaincy role in both the successful 2016 Ryder Cup – under Davis Love III – and this year’s President’s Cup, in which 2018 Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk led the United States.
However, Justin Rose – the man who pipped Johnson to the WGC-HSBC title last weekend – urged caution over Woods’ return and stressed that fans should not expect too much from the former World No 1 immediately.
“I think from my point of view, to expect him to come out and win and compete immediately, is maybe unrealistic,” Rose said at this week’s Turkish Airlines Open. “But I think that is just fantastic for the golf world to see him back healthy and out of pain.
“For me, that’s the biggest thing for him and he can build on that. And no doubt, knowing Tiger, it will take him a week or two or three of feeling good for him to start thinking that he can achieve some fantastic things again. But step one for him is being out of pain and enjoying the game of golf and he can definitely build on that.
“I think we’ve all seen he’s been trending towards playing via Twitter, Instagram, however he’s been posting his pictures,” Rose said. “I think that you can tell that he’s excited. You can tell that he’s beginning to get some confidence back in his body. And obviously with that, confidence will come back in his golf game.”