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Tiger's comeback the game's biggest talking point

December 23, 2008 17:46 IST

While professional golf prepares to confront a bleak economic landscape in 2009, the biggest talking point in the game relates to the timing and immediate impact of Tiger Woods's comeback from injury.

The American world number one has been sidelined since his astonishing US Open victory in June when he defied stabbing knee pain and a double stress fracture of his left tibia to clinch his 14th major title.

Although Woods is ahead of schedule in his recovery from reconstructive knee surgery and began hitting full shots two weeks ago, he has no idea when he will return to competitive golf.

The US Masters in April is his first priority for the 2009 season and ideally he would like to play in a couple of events before that in preparation.

The WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Tucson in late February is a possibility for his much anticipated comeback, although the March 12-15 WGC-CA Championship in Miami is more likely.

Woods accepts his return to the PGA Tour will depend on the pace of his healing and he has not yet been able to hit full shots with every club in his bag.

"I'm really not all that fired up about playing just because I can't play," the 32-year-old told reporters after his charity tournament, the Chevron World Challenge in Thousand Oaks, California, was won by Vijay Singh.

"I would be embarrassed to go out there and try to play with the guys now. I can't hit any of the shots that they're hitting because I haven't done it. I've got to do a lot of work here, and it'll be an arduous task."


Asked how soon he would be able to make a full swing with his driver, Woods replied: "I don't know, it's just the recovery day-to-day.

"I don't know how my legs are going to start recovering, then swinging more full, progressing through the ball, and the ball count.

"I think I can handle a full swing now, but I'm not there yet," the Californian said after presenting Singh with the winner's trophy and a cheque for $1.35 million (910,517 pounds) at Sherwood Country Club on Sunday.

Woods has been sorely missed from golf's biggest events over the last six months, his conspicuous absence sharply reflected on the PGA Tour by plummeting television ratings.

"Tiger brings viewers in droves to the telecast so his absence had a negative impact," Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem told reporters at the Chevron World Challenge.

"You can also see some softness in tournaments where he typically plays in the galleries, but not significant.

"But I could write a script that, from the interest of competition, we are going to have a great year (in 2009). You guys (the media) are all going to participate in the coming back of Tiger, (speculating) can he play and can he have stamina."

For the moment, though, Woods is looking forward to spending the rest of the year at home in Florida with his wife Elin and their 18-month-old daughter Sam Alexis. Their second child is due in February.

"I'm just going to go home and celebrate Christmas with Sam and just kind of hang out at home," he said. "Then I will just gradually start building back into the game. It's going to take a little bit of time but I'm really looking forward to it."