Tiger Woods. Picture: JOHN DAVID MERCER/US TODAY
Tiger Woods. Picture: JOHN DAVID MERCER/US TODAY

Hong Kong — Golf no longer needs Tiger Woods to captivate global audiences because a new generation of superstars has emerged in his absence, says Olympic champion Justin Rose.

Woods’s agent set the golfing world abuzz this week after revealing the 14-time Major winner had been cleared by his doctor to begin full practice as he prepares for yet another comeback from injury.

However, Rose, who won the US Open in 2013 and was the runner-up at the 2017 Masters, said the group of twentysomethings now claiming golf’s top prizes had already plugged Woods’s absence.

"I think golf has found itself in a really healthy spot without Tiger at the moment," Rose, 37, said via teleconference, as it was announced he will contest November’s Hong Kong Open.

"So many young players have come through and filled the void. I think to have him back is just a bonus. I don’t think golf is desperate for him back."

Woods, 41, has not won a tournament in four years and his Major drought stretches back to 2008. After undergoing spinal fusion surgery in April he said he may never play at the top again.

But Woods, who has also been plagued by personal problems and pleaded guilty to driving under the influence in August, recently posted a video of himself using a driver, captioned "Making Progress".

"Everyone just wants to see a healthy Tiger Woods," said Rose. "It’s almost gone past the point of thinking, ‘Oh, we all really want to see Tiger win 18 Majors’."

The Briton added: "I think that we want him back, just because of what he’s meant to the sport for the last 20 years."

Besides Rose’s loss to 37-year-old Sergio Garcia in a thrilling play-off at the Masters, 2017’s other men’s Majors were won by Americans Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas, all in their early-or mid-20s.

In a sport that traditionally favours comparatively older athletes, other heavyweights in the top 10 such as Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler and Jason Day are also yet to turn 30.

"It was definitely a year dominated by the young guys on tour," said Rose, who will join Garcia in November at Fanling for the Hong Kong Open.

Rose, a Hong Kong winner in 2015, said he was disappointed to have missed out on Masters glory so narrowly to the Spaniard in 2017, but he was looking forward to the rematch.

"It’ll be fun to have us both in the same field [in Hong Kong] … Sergio and I, we’ve joked all year long, had some fun with it all year long, so it will be a continuation of that."

AFP

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