Perry ready to ‘hug’ Woods upon return

Tiger Woods and Kenny Perry at the 2009 Memorial.

Tiger Woods and Kenny Perry at the 2009 Memorial.

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DOHA, Qatar – Kenny Perry will give Tiger Woods a warm welcome when he returns from his self-imposed absence from golf.

“I am going to give him a hug and shake his hand,” Perry said Wednesday as he prepared for the start of the Qatar Masters, the American’s first appearance in a European Tour event.

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Woods has been away from the game since his Nov. 27 car crash in Florida and subsequent revelations of marital infidelity. He has still not said when he will return to the PGA Tour.

“I am going to tell him that if he needs to talk to me in any way, I will,” Perry said. “That’s the way I think we all should be. I am sure he’s had a lot of phone calls and a lot of people trying to get near him, but when he decides to come back, I am going to approach him.”

Perry, who has risen to 13th in the world after winning the FBR Open and The Travelers Championship last year, thinks Woods will be welcomed back into the golfing fraternity when he feels the time is right.

“The game of golf will go on with Tiger or without him because there is no man bigger than the game,” Perry said. “But I think Tiger needs to come back. I think you know we are his family, too. So if he comes back, I think he will get a lot of support from the players.”

Perry was speaking at the final practice session before the Qatar Masters begins Thursday.

Europe’s top-ranked player, Lee Westwood, will be trying to bounce back this week after missing the cut at the Abu Dhabi Championship last week. Westwood blamed his poor showing on a new set of clubs designed to conform with golf’s new groove regulations.

The rule change introduced this year is designed to give players less control over the spin of the ball to make shots out of the rough more difficult, putting a higher premium on accuracy.

But with the help of club manufacturer Ping, Westwood thinks he will be prepared. Ping flew another set of clubs from Britain to Qatar over the weekend, and Westwood immediately shot 63 on Monday in a corporate event.

“The grooves on this set have passed the test, and now I am hoping to get back into the old routine,” Westwood said.

With players such as Perry and Camilo Villegas in Qatar this week, the European Tour has, for the second week in a row, assembled a stronger field than its PGA Tour rival, the Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego.

One player who could be missing from future European tournaments is Henrik Stenson, the eighth-ranked player in the world. The Swede said he has rejoined the PGA Tour after the biggest win of his career, in The Players Championship last year at TPC Sawgrass.

“I was a member in 2007 and I felt that it was time to take up the membership again,” said Stenson, who has a home in Orlando. “There are great tournaments and great weather and great competition as well, so it’s got a lot going for it. But obviously Europe is still my home tour, and I’ll be making a few visits back.”

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