U.S. Ryder Cup stars reveal their hopes for Tiger's triumphant return

Tiger happy to be out playing in Pro-Am (1:14)

Tiger Woods talks about his Pro-Am round at the Hero World Challenge and says he is focused ahead of his round tomorrow. (1:14)

NASSAU, Bahamas -- Every single player who's been asked about Tiger Woods' return here at the Hero World Challenge has been overwhelmingly diplomatic. They all hope he plays well. They all hope he returns to prominence. They all hope he can once again become one of the world's best golfers.

Don't just take their word for it, though. Consider their actions.

On Friday night during the recent Ryder Cup, the entire United States team huddled together in the team room. All 12 players were dressed in red, white and blue onesies with "USA" written on them, a gift from teammate Rickie Fowler. That's right -- a dozen of the world's best golfers, from Phil Mickelson to Dustin Johnson to Jordan Spieth, were covered neck-to-toe in red, white and blue onesies.

Underneath those onesies, each player was wearing a red T-shirt, courtesy of Zach Johnson.

As they gathered that night, Johnson stood up in front of the room and addressed the team.

"I just want to pay tribute to one of our assistant captains," he announced. "A man who has done so much for this game."

The entire team then stood up, unzipped the top half of their onesies and revealed those T-shirts showing a simple four-word message:


"I thought it was awesome," Woods recalled with a smile. "It goes to show you the team bonding that we had, the team unity. I've been out of the game. I've been hurt. For them to come together and do something like that, it unified all of us. It was great."

Woods will return to competition on Thursday following a 466-day hiatus after three back surgeries. For as much as the general public is filled with inquiring minds about the state of his health, his peers are equally curious to see what the near-41-year-old version of Woods can accomplish inside the ropes once again.

And just like so many watching from home, they'll be rooting for him.

"We want our champion back," Bubba Watson said. "We want our Tiger Woods back. We want him playing again."

"He's still just turning every head when he walks into the dining area," added Spieth. "Or if he's on the driving range, I mean, everybody's looking up to see him hit some shots. I was doing it this morning, interested obviously."

Throughout this week, Woods has alternated between self-deprecating jokes about his age and serious concerns about entering this next phase of his career.

He's the oldest player in this week's field, more than a decade older than six of his 17 fellow competitors, each of whom would relish the chance to compete against him when he's playing his best golf.

"We all hope for many reasons that he comes back fully healthy and his game's fully back," Spieth explained. "One, you don't ever want to see somebody go down because of injury. And two, I think it was a dream for all of us young guys to one day grow up and battle Tiger on a Sunday when he was playing his best and see if you can Y.E. Yang it, see if you can pull off a shot where you can take him down. That's a dream for all of us."

In other words, they just want to emulate those T-shirts and Make Tiger Great Again.

The general consensus is that Tiger in peak form would push these other top players toward playing even better.

Maybe they should be careful what they wish for.

When the U.S. players unzipped their onesies that Friday night and revealed those T-shirts, Woods delivered a genuine spit-take, roaring with laughter at the scene unfolding in front of him.

The team then urged him to make a speech. Woods stood at the front of the room and, as one player recalled, offered an ominous warning.

"Don't worry," he told them. "I'll be back -- and all of you are going to be pretty upset."