London: Tiger Woods is back at Royal Liverpool Golf Club this week and his rivals for major glory could not be happier.
The dominant world golfer for the last 17 years has missed the first two major tournaments of the year — the Masters and the US Open — as he took time off to recover from back surgery he underwent in late March.
In that time, TV viewing figures for golf were substantially down amid fears that the succession of crippling injuries sustained by the American in the last few years could spell the start of the end of his career.
But Woods returned to action late last month at the Congressional Club — where he missed the cut — and coming into the this week's British Open at Hoylake, he has said that he is fit again and raring to go.
Doubts have been expressed that he can contend again so quickly in the sports's top tournaments, but his mere presence has brought a collective sigh of relief from players, fans and officials alike.
"It's important. Tiger Woods has been the face of our game for 15 or — nearly 20 years, I guess," said Rory McIlroy, another former world number one, who is friendly with Woods.
"So to have him playing, have him back is important and obviously to have him competing. It's a good opportunity, as well, for some of the other guys to stand up and be counted and win tournaments, either in his absence or if he's coming back and isn't quite back to 100 per cent form.
"But it's great to see him back. It's great to see him healthy for a start. He always adds a lot of buzz and page excitement for the tournament.
"It's great to have him here this week."
Sentiments echoed by Australia's Adam Scott, who took on the mantle of world number one this year and who is looking for a first British Open win after near misses in the last two years.
"It's good for golf. It generates so much interest," he said.
"And I am sure when he is back out here, getting back in the swing of it, He's only played one event — he'll be wanting to take his spot back at the top.
"There are a bunch of us who also want to be in that spot. So it's going to be some really good golf in the upcoming months with a lot of big tournaments. Let's see who wants it the most."
Much has been made about the fact that Woods, 18 months shy of his 40th birthday and without a win in a major in six years, has lost the fear factor that he lorded over the rest of the golfing world for so long.
But legendary links player Tom Watson, who hopes Woods will be in his Ryder Cup team for Gleneagles, Scotland in late September sees it otherwise.
Woods, he insists, will be in the forefront of many minds this week at Hoylake, especially if he is in contention come Sunday's final round.
"I think it's more respect. It's not fear it's respect," he said of the influence that Woods exerts on his main rivals."
"You have to respect what his capabilities have been and probably will be again.
"When I was playing golf, it was always there's Jack (Nicklaus) on the leaderboard. Where's Jack?
That's the first name I looked for up there.
"Throughout my entire career it was Jack first. And I guarantee you that these players looking at these new electronic scoreboards are going to be looking for Tiger Woods' name, guaranteed."
As for Woods, he is under no illusions that he is facing one of the biggest challenges of his career as he tries to match and then better the all-time record of 14 major titles held by Nicklaus.
"I think it's getting harder every year. just because the field gets deeper," he said.
"More guys with a chance to win. "What did we have, 16, 17 straight first-time (major) winners throughout that stretch. It's just getting deeper. It's getting harder to win. The margin is so much smaller.
"It's only going to continue to be the case. Guys are coming out here are b