Graeme McDowell believes a “humbled” Tiger Woods will be a changed man when he eventually returns to the game.
Speaking on Sky Sports News just minutes after Woods’ appearance at TPC Sawgrass, the European Ryder Cup star said: “He seemed very humbled by everything when he came out. I have never seen him so nervous and so down and depressed about things. I guess he had a lot of time to think about things and had a lot of regrets.
“There is no doubt it is going to change him as a person and as a golfer and we are certainly going to notice a lot of differences when we see him back on the golf course.”
McDowell added: “I think we were all pretty curious to hear what was going to go on. I am disappointed obviously, initially, that his return to golf doesn’t seem too imminent, which is not great for the game in general right now.
“It was very important that he came out and spoke his mind and answered a few questions. It was a very interesting and honest press conference.”
McDowell confessed that the game of golf badly missed its top box office draw with the 2010 season in full swing and the Masters just six weeks away.
“Tiger is the biggest icon in golf, never mind in sport in the world. No doubt we miss his presence at golf tournaments. Obviously over the new year period there is not a lot of golf going on.
The World Match Play this week, not having Tiger in the field is huge for the people, the media, TV.
He just brings a buzz, an atmosphere, excitement to the tournament. With the Masters just around the corner, it appears he is not going to be there. It is huge disappointment for players and fans in general.”
Asked if he felt that PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem would have “shuddered” when Woods failed to set a definite date for his return, McDowell said: “I’d say Mr Finchem shuddered. I’d say world golfing fans and players and press shuddered as well. No one knew what we were going to expect this morning.
“A return to golf at some point was something that we were hoping for but it certainly doesn’t appear it is going to be in the short term. It is a bit of a shock and another major disappointment.”
Woods has been criticised by players such as Ernie Els for overshadowing this week’s WGC-Accenuture Match Play with his live TV statement.
But McDowell confessed that the players might softened their stance after witnessing Woods’ humbling statement.
“I certainly agree with what Ernie said a little bit,” McDowell said. “I couldn’t understand why Tiger chose to give his press conference in the middle of one of the biggest golfing events of the season.
“I think Tiger alluded to the fact that he was going in for some more therapy from tomorrow onwards, which was why he had to give the conference today.
“I am sure when guys watch that today and see how humbled and upset he is about it all and how he regretful he is, I am sure we will all cut him a bit of slack.
“Golf needs him back soon and we just hope he can get his private life sorted out and get back to what he does best.”