Anticipation rises as PGA Championship braces for Tiger-mania

Even Tiger Woods’ rivals are excited about the prospect of taking on the Masters champion when he returns to action at this week’s PGA Championship.

Woods will vie for a 16th major title when the 101st PGA Championship tees off at Bethpage Black next Thursday, and fans, pundits and players alike are waiting with bated breath to see what the former World No 1 will conjure up.

Woods’ comeback victory at Augusta last month could hardly have been more dramatic, coming as it did after an 11-year major drought that saw him battle a series of knee and back injuries that looked to have all but destroyed his career.

“One of the biggest wins I’ve ever had for sure,” Woods said. “It’s something I will never, ever forget.”

And while the prospect of a rejuvenated Woods isn’t exactly good news for his rivals, the reality is that even his fellow players are relishing the return of Tiger-mania, knowing full well what his recent achievement meant for the history – and the immediate future – of their sport.

“You could compare it to maybe the biggest, if not one of the biggest, moments in the history of golf,” said World No 20 Webb Simpson.

“From where he was, not knowing if he would ever play again. To come from feeling that way to winning the Masters is pretty amazing.”

As someone who grew up watching and idolising Woods, World No 1 Dustin Johnson still finds the prospect of going to toe-to-toe with him hugely exciting.

“For me to be competing against him when he’s coming back is a lot of fun,” said Johnson, who finished runner-up at the Masters. “He’s still a great player. I grew up watching him and kind of idolizing him so to get to play against him, it has been great.”

As he returns to the site of his 2002 US Open victory, Woods will try and get to within two of Jack Nicklaus’ major record. He is also just one win shy of Sam Snead’s record 82 PGA Tour wins.

He could also equal the record five PGA Championship titles by Nicklaus and Walter Hagen should he come out on top.

“My last three major championships have been pretty good,” Woods said. “So that in itself gives me a lot of confidence going down the road.”

And Woods isn’t worried about his age, either. With the advances in sport science, health and nutrition, being 43 isn’t what it used to be.

“Everyone works on their bodies, besides their game. Things have come a long way,” he said. “You’re just seeing guys that are taking care of their bodies a lot better and able to play longer.”