SINGAPORE: Tiger Woods’ return can only mean good things for golf which reaped the rewards of his popularity, former world number one Ernie Els said Wednesday.
Woods, a 14-time major winner, is returning after a long injury layoff and launches his 2017 campaign at Torrey Pines in California next week.
Els, a four-time major winner himself, said the current crop of players had a lot to thank Woods for.
“Certainly based on the US tour, we wouldn’t be playing for the money we are playing for (now) if it wasn’t for him,” Els told reporters on the eve of the of the SMBC Singapore Open at the Sentosa Golf Club.
“It can only be good if he plays well when he comes back because there’s going to be more spectators around the world getting fired up about the game,” he said.
“Some of the youngsters are playing great golf, so it would be great to see if Tiger can get in the mix at some of these big events and create even more of a buzz,” Els added.
Golf has seen the emergence of exciting young talent such as Justin Thomas, 23, and Hideki Matsuyama, 24, during Woods’ absence and they are challenging the sport’s top echelons.
Thomas is the current world number eight and Matsuyama is number six.
World number five, American Jordan Spieth, is 23 and held the top spot for a total of 26 weeks between 2015 and 2016.
Younger players also won the praise of world number seven Adam Scott, who said technology was helping them mature their game.
“These young guys come out and manage their game in a very smart way. Certainly Jordan (Spieth) and Justin Thomas seem to do it right now,” he said.
“That is a big help for young guys if they play with a wise old head on their shoulders and all that firepower.”
The $1 million Singapore Open, co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and Japan Golf Tour Organisation, tees off Thursday.
Competitors include world number 15 Sergio Garcia of Spain and defending champion Younghan Song from South Korea.