Jury on Woods is still out for Garcia

Spaniard, who will return to Singapore Open next year, coy on American's comeback

It may be the comeback the golfing world has been waiting for.

But Masters champion Sergio Garcia remains unsure whether Tiger Woods can overcome his long-term back injury woes, even if he believes that the former world No. 1's latest return at the end of the month will be a boon for the sport.

"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 yesterday from Dubai, where he is playing in the DP World Tour Championship.

"Anything that can help the game of golf is good for us and, hopefully, he can make it. That's a big question mark we all have.

"Nobody knows how he's going to physically react to playing and competing again, nobody knows how he's going to be mentally."

"We'll see how he does," added Garcia, who has had testy relations 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.

"We'll then see if he can come back next year and start playing a little bit more regularly."

ALL FOR GOLF'S GREATER GOOD

Anything that can help the game of golf is good for us and, hopefully, he can make it. That's a big question mark we all have. Nobody knows how he's going to physically react to playing and competing again, nobody knows how he's going to be mentally.

SERGIO GARCIA, on Tiger Woods' latest attempt at a comeback.

  • SMBC SINGAPORE OPEN 2018

  • WHEN: Jan 18-21

    WHERE: Sentosa Golf Club

    WHO: Masters champion Sergio Garcia, former Open Championship winner Louis Oosthuizen, leading players from the Asian Tour

    TICKETS

    • Early bird discount, before Nov 30: 10 per cent off adult (from $18) and season ($54) passes.

    • All proceeds from the sale of child passes will be donated to the event's official charity, the ARC Children's Centre.

    • Visit the tournament website for more information.

After a nine-month recuperation from his latest back operation, 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 the 41-year-old's latest comeback after four back surgeries in the last three years. His last competitive outing was at the Dubai Desert Classic in February, when he withdrew with back spasms after an opening 77.

The American won 79 PGA Tour titles including 14 Major championships, and held the top ranking for the most consecutive weeks (281) from June 2005 to Oct 2010.

While Woods is now a lowly 1189th following his long break, Garcia is enjoying a stellar year.

He made his Major breakthrough when he won the Masters at Augusta in April. Since then, his best finish on the PGA Tour this year was tied-10th 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 placing 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. 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 would see him 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 course with what I see and what I want to do, and manage to play well."

DP WORLD TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP

Day 1: StarHub Ch204, 4pm

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 16, 2017, with the headline 'Jury on Woods is still out for Garcia'. Print Edition | Subscribe