Tiger talk a hot topic at PGA Tour's season opener

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By Mark Lamport-Stokes

Although the chance of winning tournaments is always more likely when the game's leading player is not in the field, his peers agree the return of Woods to the U.S. circuit is urgently needed in these tough economic times.

"The Tour is better and sports are better when he is here," U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover told reporters on the eve of Thursday's opening round at the Kapalua Resort.

"I hope he comes back tomorrow as soon as possible because we need him and sport needs him."

Woods, the most popular and bankable player of his generation, announced last month he was taking an indefinite break from the game in the wake of embarrassing revelations about his personal life.

The 14-times major winner has been in hiding since admitting he had cheated on his wife and has given no timetable for his return to competition.

"You could say, man this is a great opportunity," American Glover said.

"Do they still get the credit because he wasn't there? I wish he would come back as soon as possible.

"It makes us play better, makes the Tour look better, makes the sponsors happier and all of that stuff."


World number three Steve Stricker, the highest-ranked player in this week's elite field of 28, agreed.

"We need him out here and the Tour wants him out here," the 42-year-old American said. "Corporate sponsors want him out here but it's got to be on his time when he gets everything right at home."

Australian Geoff Ogilvy, who romped to victory by six shots at Kapalua last year, felt the absence of Woods from competition could pave the way for someone else to take over as world number one this year.

"It's an interesting time right now," Ogilvy said. "Number one in the world might be up for realistic grabs this year, depending on how it all takes shape.

"Even if he does come back (this year), I imagine it will be a very limited schedule. A lot of guys will be thinking here is my year."

While Pat Perez was among those players wishing Woods would return to the game as soon as possible, he also hoped the focus of the golfing media would be stretched a little wider.

"I would like to see him come back," said Perez who booked his place in this week's winners-only field with victory at last year's Bob Hope Classic.

"It's definitely going to hurt the Tour because obviously people want to see him.

"But it also could be a good thing for the Tour because I think people could maybe see a lot more players that they don't know about, or they haven't heard about.

"I hope the people can see there is more to the Tour than just Tiger. We know how great he is. No one is questioning that.

"There are some really good guys out there."

(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)