Golf: Masters champion Sergio Garcia poses 'big question mark' over Tiger Woods' comeback bid

Spain's Sergio Garcia in the European Tour of the British Masters in Close House, Newcastle upon Tyne, Britain on Sept 28, 2017.
Spain's Sergio Garcia in the European Tour of the British Masters in Close House, Newcastle upon Tyne, Britain on Sept 28, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - It's the comeback that the golfing world has been waiting for.

After a nine-month recuperation from his latest back operation, former world No. 1 Tiger Woods announced last month that he will return to competitive golf at the 18-man, no-cut Hero World Challenge at Albany, Bahamas from Nov 30 to Dec 3.

The Tiger Woods foundation will host the tournament, which is not an official PGA Tour event. This will be 41-year-old Woods' latest comeback after four back surgeries in the last three years but it remains to be seen if he can rediscover the form that saw him win 79 PGA Tour titles including 14 Major championships.

Reigning US Masters champion Sergio Garcia believes the return of Woods will be a boon for the sport but he is coy on whether the American can overcome his injury woes and make a successful comeback.

"Obviously having (Woods) for golf is great, we all know that and whoever doesn't agree is not telling the truth," world No. 11 Garcia told local media in a conference call from Dubai, where he is playing in the DP World Tour Championship, on Wednesday (Nov 15).

"It's going to be interesting to see. I think at the end of the day, anything that can help the game of golf is good for us and hopefully he can make it, but we'll just have to wait and see.

"I think that's a big question mark that we all have, he's going to play in a couple of weeks and we'll see how he feels."

Woods' last competitive outing was at the Dubai Desert Classic in February, when he withdraw with back spasms after shooting an opening-round 77.

He had held the top ranking for the most consecutive weeks (281) from June 2005 to Oct 2010 but he's now ranked a lowly 1189th following his long break from golf.

"Nobody knows how he's going to physically react to playing and competing again, nobody knows how he's going to be mentally," added Garcia, who's had a testy relationship with Woods over the years, most notably when the Spaniard said in 2013 that he would have "fried chicken" at dinner with his rival, a comment that Woods described as hurtful and inappropriate.

"I guess it's going to be a test for him to see how he feels... in a couple of weeks, we'll see how he does, and then we'll see if he can come back next year and start playing a little bit more regularly."

Garcia is enjoying a stellar year, having made his Major breakthrough when he won the Masters in Augusta in April. Since then, his best finish on the 2016-17 PGA Tour was a tied-10th place at the Tour Championship. Before winning last month's Andalucia Valderrama Masters hosted by his foundation, his best result on the European circuit was a joint-second finish at the BMW International Open.

Reflecting on his year, the 37-year-old said that it has been one with "a lot of highs and not many lows", but admitted that he had put a little too much pressure on himself to do well after his Masters victory.

"I kind of faded out a little bit after winning (in) Augusta because of that and it probably showed on some of my rounds," he said.

"I guess it's normal after such a high and I've been starting to relax a bit more, playing a bit more like I know what to do and we're finishing the year on a high note, which is nice to do."

Garcia will hope to finish the season on a high by winning the DP World Tour Championship, which will see him being crowned Europe's top player.

He acknowledged that winning the Race to Dubai title would be "the icing on the cake", but added: "It doesn't mean that if I don't do it, I'm going to be disappointed about the year. Hopefully, there'll be more chances to win the Race to Dubai in the near future."

Garcia will return for the Jan 18-21 SMBC Singapore Open at Sentosa Golf Club for a second straight year, and he is looking forward to starting the year well.

"This year, I was very impressed with how good the greens were and how fast they were even though it rained earlier in the week," said the Spaniard, who finished tied for 11th this year. "Hopefully I'm a little bit more comfortable on the golf course with what I see and what I want to do, and I manage to play well.

Tickets for the SMBC Singapore Open in January are on sale at www.smbcsingaporeopen.com