KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Tiger Woods has found himself somewhat overshadowed by Rory McIlroy’s glittering rise to the top of world golf, but Woods’ Ryder Cup team mate Jason Dufner says the 14-times major winner has not lost any of his lustre.
While McIlroy is in China this week to compete in the BMW Masters in a stellar field of major winners and former world number ones, Woods is competing in the CIMB Classic in Malaysia where he is one of only eight players from the top-50 competing at the $6.1 million event.
While the quality of the 48-man field lacks the depth of the BMW Masters in Shanghai, Dufner said the appearance of Woods was a massive boost for the tournament, which will become part of the PGA Tour’s Fedex Cup schedule in 2013.
“I think it’s a great thing for this event and for the country of Malaysia to have a player of Tiger’s calibre come and fit this event into his schedule,” Dufner told reporters on Wednesday.
”As players we appreciate it because it makes the field and the event attract a little more media. You get more spectators out here. He tends to pull in spectators. A lot of people want to see him play some golf.
“There is no doubt about it, when Tiger is in the field it just makes the event better overall.”
The 48-man field at the Mines Resort in Kuala Lumpur also features the top 10 players from the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit plus two Malaysia qualifiers.
For the likes of India’s Gaganjeet Bhullar the rare occasion of competing alongside Woods is something very special.
”He was standing right behind the tee box waiting for me to clear it,“ the world number 119 said after Tuesday’s practice round. ”Suddenly you see Tiger Woods standing right behind your tee box, obviously, it’s kind of intimidating.
“Tiger Woods is a legend, and a living legend. What he has done, no one else has done in this generation. I think all of Asia is getting excited to see him this week.”
The ‘Woods factor’ was evident on Wednesday as hundreds of fans flocked to the 18th green to see Woods complete the tournament’s pro-am with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, while most other players were spectator-free.
While most spectators will come to the event expecting to see Woods or Dufner win, American David Lipsky was confident one of his Asian Tour colleagues could upstage them.
“Oh, yeah, no doubt,” the world number 227 said.
“I know the guys I play against week in and week out ... they have the game to shoot 20 under, 25 under here that it took last year.”
Reporting by Patrick Johnston