Published By: Ritayan Basu
Last Updated: November 30, 2023, 09:23 IST
Golf legend Tiger Woods (AP)
Tiger Woods will be teeing off for the first time since undergoing a surgery on his right ankle.
In the relaxed setting of Bahamas, the top golfers of the world will mean business when the Hero World Challenge (HWC) begins here on Thursday.
All eyes will be on sporting royalty Tiger Woods, who will be teeing off for the first time since undergoing a surgery on his right ankle following his withdrawal from the Masters in April.
The 15-time major winner, who is the tournament host of the unofficial PGA Tour event, still loves to compete and is “curious” to see how he fares against the best in the business.
Over the years, the HWC has attracted the cream of global golf and this year is no different.
World number 1 Scottie Scheffeler, two-time defending champion Viktor Hovland, 2014 winner Jordan Spieth, Colin Morikawa, Xander Schauffele are among the 20 golfers competing in the event.
The three tournament exemptions include Woods, Justin Thomas and 2017 champion Rickie Fowler. The select field means it is a no cut event.
While the players use this tournament as a springboard to the following season, the stakes are high.
They will be even higher this year with Hero MotoCorp chairman Pawan Munjal announcing an increase in the prize purse by USD one million, taking it to USD 4.5 million. It will be enhanced to USD five million in 2024. The OWGR (world ranking) points will also be awarded.
Woods, who was sitting alongside Munjal at the pre-tournament conference, said the increase in the prize money will raise the profile of the event even further. The tournament also benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation.
“The increase in prize purse just elevates this event, attracts the top players in the world with the event here at Albany and what we’ve done here throughout the years. And the feedback we’ve gotten, we’ve tried to make this event special.
“At the end of the year these guys have been playing a lot and we want to make this the most enjoyable week and get them down here and have a great time.
“I think with Hero’s involvement in this event it has elevated the event. We’re excited to continue that relationship through 2025,” said the 47-year-old.
Talking about his comeback, Woods said his ageing body is feeling good and he is looking forward to testing himself over the course of four days.
“My game feels rusty, I haven’t played in a while. I had my subtalar fused. I’m excited to compete and play and I’m just as curious as all of you are to see what happens because I haven’t done it in a while.
“I can tell you this, I don’t have any of the pain that I had at Augusta or pre that in my ankle. Well, other parts are taking the brunt of the load so I’m a little more sore in other areas, but the ankle’s good. So that surgery was a success,” said Woods.
Like Woods, Will Zalatoris will be making a comeback from injury. The 27-year-old had to withdraw from the Masters due to a back injury and the HWC will be his first event since March.
“It’s been an interesting seven months. You know, kind of a golfer’s worse nightmare is feeling your back giving out on the driving range at Augusta 30 minutes before your tee time.
“But no, it’s been a patience game. It’s been a grind, I had a lot of really good advice from guys that have had to go through the same thing and all of them said take your time, no one’s ever come back from an injury taking too long,” said Zalatoris.
If the weather stays clear, expect high scores at the Albany Golf Course.
(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed – PTI)