Clarke backing Tiger to perform

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Darren Clarke says he wouldn’t be surprised to see his good friend Tiger Woods do well in Akron this week.

Darren Clarke says he wouldn’t be surprised to see his good friend Tiger Woods do well in Akron this week.

The Open champion is paired with Woods in the afternoon session of the opening round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational on Thursday, and he’s happy to see the former world number one back in action.

“Tiger has been the best player in the world for a very long time and has been the guy, certainly over my career, who has set the benchmark for all the rest of us,” said Clarke.

“He’s a good friend of mine and it’s fantastic for all of world golf to see Tiger Woods back playing again.

“I’m sure he’ll be trying to get himself back up to where he has been before. For us to get the chance to compete against him again can only be good for the game in general. I think it’s wonderful to see him back.

“I, for one, wouldn’t be surprised to see him have a really, really good week.

Both Clarke and Woods have had success at Firestone – Woods is a seven-time winner of the event, while clarke won here in 2003.

Woods is marking his return to professional golf following almost three months off due to knee and achilles injuries that he now says have healed.

“Knowing Tiger like I do, I don’t think he would come back to playing unless he was ready to come back – both physically and mentally ready for the challenge,” added Clarke.

“(He) could be a hard man to beat this week because of his record around this golf course. He loves it so much and has played so well here before.

Woods has never been known as the most friendly and open of golfers, but he and Clarke have always enjoyed a warm relationship.

When asked why their friendship works, Clarke joked: “Similar build, similar colour, similar stature…

“I don’t know. We just got on really, really well. He got me sense of humour and I got his.”

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