Golf: Players praise Tiger for getting help, await return

Golfer Tiger Woods smiles as he sits down to sign copies of his book, The 1997 Masters: My Story at a Barnes & Noble store in New York City.
Golfer Tiger Woods smiles as he sits down to sign copies of his book, The 1997 Masters: My Story at a Barnes & Noble store in New York City. PHOTO: REUTERS

POTOMAC, United States (AFP) - Tiger Woods won't be hosting this week's PGA National tournament as he continues treatment to manage medications following an impaired driving arrest, and players on Wednesday praised his commitment to getting better.

"It's really cool to see what he's doing in terms of he's handling what he's dealing with and he's taking it seriously," said 12th-ranked Justin Thomas, part of Sunday's final US Open pairing two weeks ago.

"As someone who looks up to him and as a friend, I think that's more impressive than coming here."

Former world number one Woods, a 14-time major champion whose charity foundation stages the National, was arrested May 29 near his Florida home for impaired driving.

A breathalyzer test showed no sign of alcohol but police video showed Woods struggling to answer questions and he said later he did not realize how prescription drugs he was taking might interact.

Last week, Woods said he had sought help to handle the medications he uses to ease back pain and sleep issues.

"I'm currently receiving professional help to manage my medications and the ways that I deal with back pain and a sleep disorder," Woods tweeted.

World number 17 Patrick Reed, who played under assistant captain Woods on last year's triumphant US Ryder Cup squad, said everyone should understand Woods's absence.

"Tiger's here in spirit, you know. It's his event," Reed said. "It's never going to hurt the golf tournament or hurt any event to have his name a part of it. Means a lot because of how much he means to golf.

"It's one of those things. We all would love for him to be here, but at the end of the day, for him to put his foot down and go ahead and take care of himself and try to get better, that's more important than playing golf or being here."

Woods made a comeback from back surgery last December in the Bahamas but has played only twice this year, missing the cut at Torrey Pines and withdrawing from the European Tour's Dubai Desert Classic in February.

In April, Woods announced he had undergone his fourth back operation since 2014 to ease back and leg pain and would miss the remainder of the season, including the National.

"He cares a lot about this tournament," Thomas said. "It's his tournament and he wants to be here, but he's worried about what's going to be best for him, best for his family. He wants to get back on track and I think it speaks a lot to him (that) he's taking it very seriously.

"We all want him back out. So he's just trying to do the necessary steps for him to be out here as fast as he can."

Woods, whose 79 career PGA Tour wins are three shy of Sam Snead's all-time record, has not won a major title since the 2008 US Open and has not won any event since the 2013 World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational.

"We all wish him the best and we want him out here, every one of us," Reed said. "The more he can take care of himself, (the more likely) then we're going to get the old Tiger back."