John Daly thanked him. Tom Watson teased him. Fred Couples said he deserves all the good things happening to him.
Tiger Woods is very popular, even with the guys he'll be trying to beat out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in his Skins Game debut this weekend.Much as he did for the PGA Tour over the past three months, the 20-year-old Woods has revitalized the Skins Game, which had been fading with age.
The made-for-TV event, which sank to its lowest ratings ever in 1995, is abuzz this year, with the two-day match expected to attract one of golf's largest television audiences in history.
Requests for media credentials are four times the normal rate, at "140 and rising," a tournament official said Friday. And tickets, limited to a sale of 10,000, have gone briskly.
The "other three" players in the foursome for the "Tiger Skins," do not appear resentful for being squeezed into the wings while Woods is center stage.
"It's great. It's wonderful what he can do with a golf ball," said Daly, who's still officially the longest hitter on the tour (288.8 yards per drive this year) only because Woods (302.8 yards) didn't play enough tournaments to qualify for that distinction.
"It takes a heck of a lot of pressure off me," Daly said of Woods' arrival. "He's the new kid on the block and he hits it a mile. It's just going to be a blast to play with him, in future tournaments as well.
"It's made me want to grind a lot harder, get my game back in shape."
Watson, 47, who won the first skin ever in a Skins Game, in 1983, noted that Woods was only about 6 at the time.
Watson, who said he was going to be a spectator this time, hitting off the tee then watching Woods blow drives past him, then turned serious, looking Woods in the eye and saying, "Tiger, you've got the world in front of you."
Couples, who won $270,000 in the Skins Game last year with a birdie on the fifth playoff hole, said Woods has lived up to his billing.
"Tiger obviously is great for the Tour," Couples said.
Woods, who played in seven tour events after turning pro three months ago, won twice, finished third twice and had five top 10 finishes, earning a total of $791,194.
The foursome plays nine holes Saturday at Rancho La Quinta Country Club, then nine more Sunday. The first six holes are worth $20,000 each, the next six $30,000 and the last six $40,000.