SYDNEY, Australia, Nov 22 – Jason Day assured Tiger Woods on Wednesday that he’s under “no pressure” ahead of his long-awaited comeback at an exclusive invitational tournament next week.
Day, a former world number one, said Woods had told him he feels ready for his return at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas.
The 14-time major champion has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems which forced him to miss the 2015-2016 season.
“There’s no pressure. I think it’s a 17- or 18-man field, there’s no cut, he’s playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at,” Day said at the Australian Open in Sydney.
“From what I see on Instagram and what he’s been telling me, he says he’s ready and I’m hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he’s hitting it very long.
“And if he’s hitting it long and straight, then that’s going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He’s always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.”
Woods is included in an 18-man field which features many of world golf’s elite, including world number one Dustin Johnson and world number two Jordan Spieth.
“I have no idea where his game’s at because the last time I spent time with him he wasn’t even hitting full swings yet,” Spieth said in Sydney.
“But he was confident coming off of this last surgery to get back into it and to be able to have the time necessary and strength to practise as much injury free as possible.”
– ‘Best he’s felt in years’ –
Woods has not played competitively since February, when he withdrew from the Dubai Desert Classic.
He underwent surgery in April, his fourth operation on his troublesome back, and has been posting videos of himself in practice.
He announced he would be making his comeback at the Hero World Challenge, an invitational event to benefit his charity foundation.
“I did talk to him and he did say it’s the best he’s ever felt in three years,” said Day, a friend and confidant of Woods.
“He doesn’t wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, ‘Look, it’s great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can’t live a happy, healthy life, then that’s difficult’.
“I totally understand where he’s coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating.”
Woods, who last won a major in 2008, has also battled personal demons. In May, he was arrested for driving under the influence after being found asleep in his Mercedes-Benz by a roadside.
Woods, who was found to have five drugs including the powerful opioid hydrocodone in his system, later revealed he underwent professional treatment to help him manage his medications.
Under a plea agreement reached in Palm Beach County, north of Miami, Woods will avoid jail time unless he commits major violations of his probation.