Bubba: We just want to watch Woods
Tiger Woods never knew he had so many friends among his golfing rivals until he needed their support after a 15-month back injury lay-off that ends tomorrow morning (Singapore time) at the Hero World Challenge.
The former world No. 1 returns in the 18-player invitational after having not played a competitive round since last August.
Said Woods: "I've missed being out here with the guys. I miss the fraternity. I miss the camaraderie.
"I've had a lot more close friends out here than I thought."
Two-time US Masters champion Bubba Watson says Woods has benefited from bonds made in the days when he inspired an epic fan following but seemed distant and alone from rivals.
"Tiger is a great man and to see him open up, I think it's for the better," Watson said.
"He has got a smile on the face and a bounce in his step. Who cares about the golf?
"I think he's learning that now that we all miss him. We miss the interaction with him, seeing him practise, just listening and learning from him."
Woods grew nearer to some players during his time as a vice-captain for the US' Ryder Cup team earlier this year.
"My relationships with a lot of these players have gotten closer, either through hanging out at the restaurant (the Woods Jupiter), playing, the Ryder Cup and going out to dinner. It has been fun," Woods said.
Woods seemed a man alone during much of his career's success and after his infamous sex scandal, but has kindled new friendships from a new generation of US PGA Tour players, those he inspired rather than dominated.
"It's amazing to see the outpouring of support from our side. He has meant so much to all of us. He has inspired all of us, touched all of us in different ways," Watson said.
Watson summed up the feelings of many golf fans who dream of Woods' glory era but just want to see him play, in the same way that Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player were loved long past their peak.
"Just let us watch you for four days," Watson said.
"I don't care what the score is. We want our champion back. We want our Tiger Woods back." - AFP.