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‘What a machine’: Tiger Woods’ imminent return has PGA Tour pros surprised and excited

Bubba Watson and Tiger Woods in press conference at 2016 Hero World Challenge

Three days ago, Tiger Woods announced what just weeks before was firmly in the realm of the unthinkable: he would compete alongside his son Charlie at the PNC Championship starting on December 18, just 10 months after his February car crash that left his right leg mangled, and Tiger doubting he would ever play golf again.

While a true PGA Tour return is still a long way off, according to the 15-time major champion, golf fans will get to see Tiger Woods hit real golf shots on live TV next week. And, as you would expect, they are pretty excited about it.

But diehard Tiger fans aren’t the only group shocked and delighted by his return. His fellow PGA Tour pros are pumped, too.

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At the QBE Shootout, two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson talked about Tiger’s big announcement, one he suspected the week before after seeing Tiger hitting shots on the range.

“After I saw his swings last week in the Bahamas, I texted him. I said, ‘Hey, are you going to play next week?'” Watson related on Wednesday. “He said, ‘Man, I don’t know if I can get around, but I’m trying, I’m working.'”

But now that Tiger’s return is official, Bubba revealed that he’ll play the role of eager fan at times next week.

“So I was interested to hear that [Tiger] signed up and he’s there. I’ll be there and I’ll be one of those people that follow him around, trying to see how he’s doing, making sure everything’s good,” Watson said. “I can’t wait to see the whole family there, my whole family there just to give him a hug and embrace him.”

LPGA star Lexi Thompson, Bubba’s teammate at the QBE, also shared her excitement and surprise about Tiger’s return to the game.

“Well, Tiger’s amazing for the game. It’s somebody who I’ve always looked up to growing up playing golf. Definitely wasn’t expecting him to come back after what he went through, but not surprising at all with how hard he works and how determined of a person he is,” Thompson shared. “But he’s great for the game, he’s grown it dramatically, so I’m happy he’s coming back and looking forward to what he has in store.”

In his own pre-tournament press conference, Tour veteran Matt Kuchar wasn’t hiding his enthusiasm either.

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“I think everybody’s just so excited to see Tiger back,” Kuchar said on Thursday. “It’s an amazing recovery, amazing comeback and certainly happy that he’s in good enough shape to be able to play golf.”

Kuchar also provided a guess as to why Tiger chose the PNC of all tournaments to start his comeback, saying, “Now we see Tiger Woods committing to it and you realize he’s not doing it because it’s a normal tournament, he’s doing it because it’s the Father-Son, he gets to play with Charlie, he gets to hang with friends. It really is a unique, special week and so cool for the event.”

Other pros reacted directly to Tiger’s announcement post on Twitter, like Bryson DeChambeau, who replied, “This is awesome. Welcome back.”

Or Andrew “Beef” Johnston, who shared Tiger’s tweet with a simple addition of “Incredible.”

But three-time PGA Tour winner Max Homa, who already has a victory in the 2021-22 season, possibly had the best reaction: “Tiger is so cool. What a machine. In the same year I thought it would be a minor miracle if he could ever walk again, he’s playing competitive #golf on tv. Legend.”

The 36-hole PNC Championship begins Saturday, December 18, at The Grande Lakes Orlando Course at the Ritz Carlton Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. Check out the full PNC Championship TV schedule here.

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