LONDON • Former world No. 1 Luke Donald spoke with the benefit of experience when the Briton suggested Tiger Woods may have to simply grit his teeth and commit to a definite comeback date.
British Masters host Donald said he sympathised with the "mental anguish" long-time rival Woods is enduring after the American was forced to cancel his long-awaited comeback this week.
Woods, a 14-time Major winner, announced he was not ready to return from his 14-month injury layoff with a long-standing back problem as planned at the Safeway Open - the new PGA Tour season opener - in California.
DON'T PLAY THE WAITING GAME
At some point he's got to jump in, and if he messes up, he's got a good opportunity to get better the next time he plays.
LUKE DONALD, the former top-ranked golfer, suggesting that 14-time Major champion Tiger Woods has to put the fear of failure aside as he seeks to make a competitive return to the sport.
Donald struggled with a career-threatening wrist injury and said that it was a psychological battle to get back into the game.
"There's a lot of mental anguish when injury forces you to take time off from the game," said Donald.
"I was out for six months and could only start hitting balls gradually first on my short game and putting following the surgery."
Donald was born and went to school not far from this week's British Masters venue at The Grove near Watford, north of London.
Woods won the event a decade ago, with Donald finishing sixth. But in 2008 Donald picked up a left wrist injury at the US Open, forcing him out for a number of months.
He underwent surgery and did not taste success again until late 2010 before reaching world No. 1 in May 2012.
"Tiger's the greatest player that's ever played, and he's got very, very high standards and expectations," said 38-year-old.
"I think that you have to weigh that up with that feel of almost failure or fear of anxiety of not performing well.
"You know sometimes those don't match up. If Tiger Woods is healthy like he says he is, that's probably what he's weighing out right now, just feeling comfortable.
"Again, it's really hard to get comfortable unless you actually put yourself through it.
"At some point he's got to jump in, and if he messes up, he's got a good opportunity to get better the next time he plays."
Woods was one of the US Ryder Cup assistant captains as the hosts regained the trophy from Europe just over a week ago at Hazeltine.
But the 40-year-old revealed on Monday that while the experience whetted his appetite to return to playing, he realised he was not ready to compete against the world's best.
Defending British Masters champion Matthew Fitzpatrick says he was not surprised to learn Woods elected to withdraw from the Safeway Open and next month's Turkish Open.
"I probably shouldn't disclose too much of what I saw on the Sunday night at the Ryder Cup but I met Tiger for the first time," said Fitzpatrick.
"I mean, it was amazing to me. He looked fine. At the Ryder Cup he looked fine."
The Englishman added: "I'm sure his statement is 100 per cent true and that he's not quite happy with his game and he's not been hitting balls for too long and stuff.
"But with his back injury, he's just got to be careful. He just wants what's best for him and he's biding his time so he can compete with everyone on the PGA Tour."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
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