Albany, The Bahamas, Nov 28 (IANS) A hectic season may be nearing its end, but some major events are happening this week at the Hero World Challenge. Tiger Woods will swing a club in a competitive round for the first time since pulling out of the third round at the Augusta Masters.
And the purse for this elite event, which has been $ 3.5 million since 2014, when Hero took over the sponsorship, has been enhanced to a healthy $ 4.5 million and is slated to go further up to $ 5 million next year, said Dr Pawan Munjal, Executive Chairman of the Hero MotoCorp.
An excited Woods admitted some ‘rust’ as he said, “My game feels rusty, I haven't played in a while. I had my subtalar (subtalar joint is an articulation between two of the tarsal bones in the foot, the talus and calcaneus) fused. I'm excited to compete and play and I'm just as curious as all of you are to see what happens because I haven't done it in a while. I can tell you this, I don't have any of the pain that I had at Augusta or pre (before) that in my ankle. Well, other parts are taking the brunt of the load so I'm a little more sore in other areas, but the ankle's good. So that surgery was a success.”
That was the news about Woods and as for the purse zooming up and Woods teeing up, Munjal said, “I'm sure like me all of you and everyone else watching us live here is very excited for this upcoming week.
“The man on my right making his third comeback to competitive golf at the Hero World Challenge. So, thank you for that, Tiger. It obviously elevates the stature of the event. Obviously gets so much more interest into this particular event. And obviously takes the rate ratings whether on television and social media we see in the past. The second important announcement is I'm happy to announce that the prize purse for the Hero World Challenge in 2023 is being increased to $4.5 million, which in 2024 will go up to $5 million. At Hero we do believe it's very important to keep raising the stature of this event and also keep rewarding the players for their efforts and the time they spend for the game and especially at this event.”
Woods, touching on his ‘recovery’ and comeback process, said, “I would say that the procedures I've had done post last couple years, I've had a number of them and at some point in time I was going to have to get my ankle replaced or fused. That timetable was sped up. They weren't expecting me to put as many forces into that ankle as when I hit drivers, and so I think the doctors were surprised by that.
“The only way to fix that was either to get it replaced or fused, and we chose the fusion, the subtalar fusion and put hardware in there. The next part is the hard part, it's six months of doing nothing. That's the hard part. The first couple months were really rough, but unfortunately I've had experience, I've gone through it before and I'm here on the good side now.”
Woods is among the 20 superstars competing this week.
Despite being only a ‘special’ event at the end of the season with a limited field, the Hero World Challenge always has a star-studded field.
The elite field in the 2023 edition has 12 Major winners, who between them have 30 Major wins, including 15 by Woods alone. The field has six players who have held the World No. 1 position including Scottie Scheffler, who is the current World No. 1.
The field includes two Major winners from the 2023 calendar, Brian Harman and Wyndham Clark; and another three from 2022 - Scheffler, Justin Thomas and Matthew Fitzpatrick. There are four past Hero World Challenge winners, including the two-time defending champion, Viktor Hovland, without doubt the hottest property in world golf.
Expectedly, Woods fielded a lot of questions on the possible merger of the PGA Tour, the LIV Golf series and the DP World Tour, and on his role in the process. Sounding cautiously optimistic, he said, “One thing, all the parties are talking and we're aggressively working on trying to get a deal done. We're all trying to make sure that the process is better, too, as well. So the implementation of governance is one of the main topics as long as -- getting the deal done, but making sure it's done the right way.”
Still on the deal or the merger, as it could be, he added, “We have multiple options, but still, we would like to have a deal done before December 31st. That's what the agreement said in the summer and all parties understand that. But there are other options out there.”
Coming to this week, Woods has been seen on TV at various events, where he was not paying but was in focus. As Munjal said, “We've seen you in the recent past on TV, in Mexico. We've seen you with your son, Charlie, and once again we'll be seeing you at the PNC Father and Son.”
And that has set the stage for 2023 Hero World Challenge, which in some ways could set the tone for 2024, a season that has a lot of elevated events with huge purses.
Woods will tee up alongside Justin Thomas on Thursday, while the two-time defending champion, Viktor Hovland will play with Max Homa.
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