ORLANDO, March 25 – Arnold Palmer says Tiger Woods should do everything to put his sex scandal behind him while Colin Montgomerie expects Woods to overcame nerves and handle any hecklers on his return.On the eve of the 5.8 million-dollar US PGA Arnold Palmer Invitational, the main topic of conversation Wednesday was Woods and his impending comeback at the Masters from a five-month break following a sex scandal.
"Move on. I think that’s probably the best thing to do. Move on," Palmer said. "I suppose the best thing he could do would be open up and just let (reporters) shoot (questions) at him… that might be the best way to move on."
World number one Woods, a 14-time major champion chasing the all-time record of 18 major titles set by Jack Nicklaus, often screams obscenities after poor shots but has said he will be more respectful of the game when he returns.
Palmer, the 80-year-old US legend who helped popularize the sport a generation ago, held off on giving advice to Woods about that or about what more he needed to say after a public apology statement and two interviews last Sunday.
"I don’t think it’s my position to say," Palmer said. "I think it’s up to him to do and say whatever he feels he needs to do to redeem the situation, put it in the proper place."
Woods has admitted he is nervous about the reception he will receive from spectators, even at Augusta National Golf Club, where he played practice rounds Monday and Tuesday.
Unlike most PGA events, spectators at Augusta could lose their entry badges if they violate the traditional decorum of the Masters, so Woods might not have a true test from hecklers anyway.
But Scotsman Montgomerie, the 2010 European Ryder Cup captain, has been well-tested by US hecklers and doubts Woods will have any problems.
"I heard when he said that he’s nervous to come back and that’s the first time I’ve ever heard Tiger say those words," Montgomerie said. "It’s going to be interesting.
"It’s very shrewd what he has done, to come back in the most controlled atmosphere possible, the Masters. The patrons are very knowledgeable and will respect him as the golfer that he is and I think that there will be no issue at all.
"He will get over those nerves and be as determined as anyone has ever been on a golf course to prove that he’s still the No. 1 player in the world, and in my opinion, the best player ever to play the game."
Montgomerie expects a Masters-like respect for Woods at the British Open in July at St. Andrews.
"I think we’ll be welcoming him with open arms when he comes over," said Montgomerie. "He has won in 2000 and 2005 (at St. Andrews) and would start as a heavy favorite to do that again. We know that the crowd there will respect him as they do at the Masters as the golfer that he is."
Even after the ridicule of numerous affairs, taunts from spectators will be nothing for a player like Woods who has been in the spotlight since a television appearance golfing as a child, Montgomerie said.
"Tiger is different. He has a spotlight and has had on him for the last 10 years," Montgomerie said. "It’s amazing how sometimes you see him swing a club and it comes down and just stops and it’s incredible how he has that control to stop the club at that speed coming through.
"He has been used to this most of his professional career so I don’t envisage my problems arising with that at all. He’s the most focused sportsman I’ve ever known and I think that he will adapt accordingly."
Palmer and Montgomerie were divided over the potential drawbacks or benefits of returning at Augusta after a five-month layoff.
"You can’t get very sharp not playing. Even just practicing won’t do it. To be sharp, you have to compete," said Palmer.
Montgomerie commented: "There are more advantages than disadvantages. He’s physically fit. He knows how to swing a golf club. He knows how to win. He just hasn’t done it for a while. But he’s the best player that has ever played and he will adapt accordingly."