Ireland’s Major winners have welcomed the return of Tiger Woods to competitive action at next week’s Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, Ohio.
Woods has recovered sufficiently from his recent knee problems in time for the fourth major of the summer, the US PGA in Atlanta in a fortnight.
Newly crowned British Open champion Darren Clarke, US Open winner Rory McIlroy, Padraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell have all expressed delight at the announcement.
Clarke is particularly pleased that he will get the chance to thank Woods in person for his recent messages and advice before and after his win at Royal St George’s.
“It’s great he’s coming back to play again,” said Clarke after he missed the cut at the Irish Open in Killarney.
“He’s been a very good friend for a long time. He offered some helpful advice on the Saturday of Open week but I’m not going to tell you what it was. That’s between friends.”
US Open champion McIlroy will be around for the weekend in Kerry after he finished the second round on four under, the same total as McDowell.
“It’s great that Tiger is coming back,” said McIlroy. “Obviously he feels healthy enough now to get back out on the golf course and it will be great for Akron that he is playing next week.
“He wants to sharpen up his game for the PGA the following week and it will be good that he’s there.
“He always brings a huge buzz to tournaments, whether he competes or not. He’s Tiger Woods and he’s the best player of the last couple of generations.”
Fellow Ulsterman McDowell said: “I think we were all aware that if he didn’t play by the US PGA we might not see him again this year, so it’s a good boost obviously.
“Firestone has some happy memories for him - not last year - and it’s a big boost for the tournament and for any tournament he now plays in. They just have an extra dimension to them when he’s in the field.
“He limped off the course last time. There’s one thing hitting balls on the range, it’s another putting your body under tournament circumstances because we hit it 15% harder in tournament play.
“You’re putting your knee under more stress. We will see - I am sure he knows better than all of us the state of his injuries.
“It’s just good for golf to have him back.”
Padraig Harrington, who missed the cut in Killarney along with Clarke, added: “Obviously it’s great to see him back. Hopefully he’s fit and healthy - and I’m looking forward to going down the stretch with him next week. There you go.”