Britain’s Ian Poulter warmly welcomed Tiger Woods back on Friday after 16 months out through injury – but cautioned it could take time for the 14-time major winner to settle back in.
Poulter is wrestling with his own comeback after missing five months, including the Ryder Cup, for foot surgery, before returning to action in October.
But the Englishman, currently playing the Australian PGA Championship ahead of next week’s Hong Kong Open, said players were “psyched” to see Woods back in action.
Woods shot one-over-par 73 on Thursday in the Hero World Challenge in Bahamas, after sharing the lead earlier in his comeback round.
“It will take him a little bit of time to settle back in – he’s been out of the game for quite some time,” Poulter said.
“I think everybody, including the players, are psyched to have him back. Golf, when Tiger Woods plays well, is an incredibly exciting game.”
Poulter is currently down at 166th in the world rankings and admitted he had concerns over his putting as he re-acclimatises to pressure situations.
“I feel like my game, with having five months off, is actually in shape,” he said.
“I think the most frustrating thing for me is not converting the birdie opportunities that I feel I’ve had in the first five events since coming back to play golf.”
Poulter shot a four-under-par second round of 68 on Friday at the Australian PGA Championship to lie eight shots off the lead heading into the weekend rounds.
The 40-year-old, regarded as a Ryder Cup talisman for Europe, said it had been “difficult” to sit out Europe’s defeat, but added he had gained valuable insights as a vice captain to Darren Clarke.
Next week Poulter will do battle at the Hong Kong Open — which he won in 2010 — with some formidable rivals including Justin Rose, Danny Willett and Patrick Reed. But he said he was optimistic about his chances.
“There are some great names, it’s going to be a tough challenge,” he said.
“As soon as I feel comfortable holing a few more putts I feel my game’s good enough to win.”