For Arnold Palmer, there's no question that when Tiger Woods returns
from his nine-plus-month layoff he will be the great player he's always
been. Palmer said Wednesday that he's seen Woods in Orlando working on
rehabbing his surgically repaired knee and getting his game back on
"How it will affect his golf, laying off as long as he has, is difficult
to say," Palmer said."But I certainly expect that he will come on very strong and be
the great player that he has been in the past. I don't think there's
much question about that."
Speaking to reporters to promote the 50th annual Bob Hope Classic, which he's hosting in Palm Springs, Calif.,
later this month, Palmer said he expected someone to challenge
Woods as well. Or at least that's what he would have done.
"I know if I were there playing and competing, I would
certainly put forth a greater effort to be a top player," Palmer said. "If you're
going to be a top player, you've got to somewhere along the way fess up
to Tiger and play him and do something about it.
"I think that is very
important. Of course, we see a lot of these guys that are so good, I expect that
some of them are going to challenge him. I think that would be good for
the game," Palmer said.
So who's going to do it? Palmer offered some usual suspects: Sergio Garcia, Padraig Harrington and Vijay Singh. Then he named some other players he's been watching that might be capable of taking a run at Woods.
"I have a guy that I'm watching very closely, like Adam Scott, Trevor Immelman,
and Anthony Kim, who is really coming on. I expect to see him
do some pretty good golfing here in the next couple years," Palmer
said. "To just say there's a guy there that is going to do it. I've
watched Daniel Chopra, who has won a couple events and certainly looks
outstanding to me as an upcoming golfer. I suppose I'd look for a
little more from Steve Stricker also, who has certainly some real
potential. I could go on and on for a long time."
The Hope Classic is especially significant for Palmer since he won five times here, including the last of his 62 PGA Tour wins in 1973.
"Well, that was a pretty special event, one that I guess I will always
enjoy, the fact that I won. I was playing with my good friend Jack
Nicklaus on that particular occasion," Palmer said.
"You never know that it was your last, and hopefully it wasn't, but it turned out that way."