MX23RW : Wednesday, October 17 01:43:14

Darren Clarke: Tiger Woods return "fantastic"

Darren Clarke: Tiger Woods return
© PA Photos
Open champion Darren Clarke praises "good friend" Tiger Woods ahead of Bridgestone Invitational.

Darren Clarke has said that it is “fantastic” to see former world number one Tiger Woods back on the golf course.

The Open champion will play alongside the American in the opening round of the Bridgestone Invitational on Thursday after failing to make the cut at the Irish Open last month.

Despite Woods’ slip down to 28 in the world rankings, Clarke has insisted that the 35-year-old is capable of getting back to his best form.

"Tiger has been the best player in the world for a very long time and has been the guy, certainly over my career, who has set the benchmark for all the rest of us," said Clarke, according to Sky Sports.

"He's a good friend of mine and it's fantastic for all of world golf to see Tiger Woods back playing again.

"I'm sure he'll be trying to get himself back up to where he has been before. For us to get the chance to compete against him again can only be good for the game in general. I think it's wonderful to see him back.”

Woods will be competing in his first championship since being sidelined with an Achilles injury for three months.

"Knowing Tiger like I do, I don't think he would come back to playing unless he was ready to come back - both physically and mentally ready for the challenge,” Clarke added.

"Tiger Woods could be a hard man to beat this week because of his record around this golf course. He loves it so much and has played so well here before."

The duo, who are known for having a friendship off the course, tee off at Bridgestone at 1.40pm local time [6.40pm BST] on August 4.

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