Tiger Woods is back after taking four months off following back surgery. Credit: Reuters
After missing the Masters and the U.S. Open following a back operation, Tiger Woods returns to major championship action at this week's British Open and once again he is the hot topic of conversation.
The 38-year-old American is normally the clear favorite when he tees it up at any tournament but the bookmakers seem skeptical of his title chances at Hoylake, rating him a 20-1 shot to land the 15th major victory of his career.
Having gone six years since capturing the last of his majors — at the 2008 U.S. Open — the fear factor is still prevalent among his rivals even though it is not quite what it once was.
"It's not fear. It's respect," five-times Open champion Tom Watson told reporters. "You have to respect what his capabilities have been and probably will be again.
"When I was playing it was always, 'Where's Jack Nicklaus on the leaderboard? That's the first name I looked for.
"Then it was, 'Where's Lee Trevino? Where's Johnny Miller?' In my early career those were the guys but it was mainly Jack," added Watson.
"Throughout my entire career it was Jack first and I guarantee you that the players looking at these new electronic scoreboards are going to be looking for Tiger Woods's name this week."
World No. 7 Woods goes into the third major of the season having played only two competitive rounds of golf in four months.
Former U.S. Ryder Cup captain Curtis Strange told Reuters in a recent interview that his fellow American had to therefore lower his expectations at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club.
Asked on Tuesday what an acceptable finish would be here, Woods gave the questioner a steely glare and a response that left no one in any doubt.
"First," said the former world No. 1. "That's always the case."