Tiger Woods faces monumental challenge, says Player

Assessing Tiger Woods' recent battle with injuries, Gary Player told Omnisport: "Just to play again is not easy."

Former world number one Tiger Woods has endured a painful decline in recent years.   -  Getty Images

Gary Player hopes Tiger Woods will be able to make a successful return to golf, but says the 14-time major champion faces a "monumental challenge".

Golf's dominant figure for more than a decade, Woods has endured a painful decline in recent years.

Persistent back trouble has led to a succession of surgeries for the former world number one, who has made only three tournament appearances since August 2015 and withdrew from the most recent of those - February's Dubai Desert Classic - after one round.

Woods was then arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence after he was found asleep at the wheel of his Mercedes on May 29 in Jupiter, Florida. After attributing his condition to an "unexpected reaction" to the mix of medications he was on, the 41-year-old went on to confirm he was receiving professional help.

In an exclusive interview with Omnisport ahead of the 146th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale, fellow golfing great Player said: "Very simply, there's nobody playing today that plays anywhere near as well as Tiger did in his prime. It will be a very sad thing if he doesn't come back and do well, but he's got a monumental challenge ahead of him.

"We all hope he does come back and do well; he's so important for the game, puts money in everyone's pockets. The sponsors love him, the media love him, the public want to see him do well.

"Tiger Woods is Tiger Woods, you never know. But when you have three back operations, three knee operations and you go through the problems that he's had, wow. It's a monumental challenge - just to play again is not easy."

Woods' last major victory came at the 2008 U.S. Open. His absence from this week's Open stretches his run of missed majors to seven.