Johnny Miller CAN. NOT. WAIT. for Tiger Woods to return to competitive golf — at the 1973 U.S. Open winner’s very own Safeway Open! At Silverado! In the first event of the PGA Tour’s 2016-2017 season! In little more than a month!
"A big yes. Like a screaming yes, a screaming yes," an unbelievably amped-up Miller said on Golf Channel Wednesday morning after Woods announced his "hope" to rebound from his lengthy injury-related layoff at the Oct. 13-16 Safeway Open. "Now we got Phil [Mickelson] and Tiger. We’re really blessed."
Christmas in October. That’s what Tiger’s comeback amounts to for Miller, who could not be a prouder host, or a more excited pitchman, of the Napa, Calif., event that Woods will put on the map if he’s game-ready by Oct. 13.
"My rehabilitation is to the point where I'm comfortable making plans, but I still have work to do," Woods said on his website on Wednesday. "Whether I can play depends on my continued progress and recovery. My hope is to have my game ready to go."
Though Woods made no definite pronouncement about his plans (which include the Turkish Airlines Open in early November, Tiger’s Hero World Challenge a month later, and his invitational on Oct. 10-11), his announcement of hope sent the golf world into paroxysms of euphoria — and made this week’s BMW Championship something of an afterthought.
The return of Tiger Woods is near ... pic.twitter.com/BOeYyxFwWF— U.S. Open (USGA) (@usopengolf) September 7, 2016
When you hear Tiger Woods is COMING BACK! pic.twitter.com/MFS9BdDBOW— Bunkered Golf Mag (@BunkeredOnline) September 7, 2016
Even the man who holds the major championship record Woods has been chasing for 20 years chimed in.
.@TigerWoods, it's great to see you back and in good health. You've done so much for the game and it's better with you playing. Good luck!— Jack Nicklaus (@jacknicklaus) September 7, 2016
Players competing in the third stage of the FedEx Cup playoff series at Crooked Stick were similarly eager for Woods to get back on the course.
"Really?!" Justin Thomas exclaimed to GolfChannel.com’s Ryan Lavner. "Wow, that’s awesome. I’m so pumped."
Rory McIlroy, the winner of the Deutsche Bank Championship on Monday, opined about his Nike stablemate.
"He brings an aura and an atmosphere that no one else in golf can bring," said McIlroy.
Perhaps Graeme McDowell said it best, after assuring heir apparent-wannabes McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, and Dustin Johnson that he meant no disrespect.
"I think we’ve got an unbelievable crop of young talent that are incredible role models for the sport and give the game a real appeal, but no one moves the needle like Tiger Woods," McDowell, who famously beat Woods in the 2010 World Challenge exhibition, told Lavner. "He’s the only one who transcended the sport."
In the year-plus that Woods has been recovering from multiple back surgeries, his protege Jason Day has settled into the No. 1 spot in the world golf rankings that Tiger owned for a record 281 consecutive weeks and 683 weeks total. And while members of a new generation of players weaned on Woods take turns winning each week on tour, none of them attracts a crowd like Tiger.
"I’m sort of glad I’m not there [Silverado] that week," McIlroy said. "It’s going to be a bit of a circus."
You betcha it will be, and the guys are wicked delighted to welcome back the man who brought fans to the course in droves and expanded the bank accounts exponentially of those who can’t wait to beat Tiger at the game he made into a cool athletic endeavor.
But Miller was by far the most overjoyed of them all.
"He might come out great," said Miller, who predicted Woods’ "second career" would produce six or eight more tour wins. "I’m pretty pumped right now."
Miller was so jacked he could barely contain his glee about Woods raising the curtain at Silverado on what will surely be his final comeback.
"Everybody’s pulling for him and it's going to be quite an amazing thing to have him come back from this long layoff," Miller said. "We’d better have some extra rooms for all these people who are going to show up."
Indeed, Miller’s so into Tiger’s resurgence that he’s ready to grant a long-ago request from Team Tiger to give short-game tips to the winner of 14 major championships. For sure, it’s difficult not to recall the chipping yips that derailed one of Woods’ most recent comebacks.
But that’s something Miller can definitely help Tiger overcome, right, Johnny?
"I was pretty good with my short irons," offered a giddy Miller. "If he wants a nice lesson for showing up, I’d be happy to do it."