Tiger Woods makes his return this week, nearly two months after missing the cut at the PGA Championship. His return means higher ticket sales and more revenue for the Frys.com Open, but don't expect him to contend this week.
It is unlikely he will have the same level of motivation as he did in his previous two events. He is facing a stronger field than usual for a fall series event. There are many distractions regarding his new caddie and the Presidents Cup.
Finally, Tiger Woods will be rusty in tournament play when he tees off at Cord Valle. There is no substitute for playing professional tournaments. He is playing largely to get some work in this week, so do not take too much out of the result whether you are a supporter of his or not.
Tiger Woods will be paired with top amateur Patrick Cantlay and Louis Oothuizen, who is coming of a very solid showing at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. Ernie Els is also in the field, and the Big Easy has certainly picked up his play late in the year.
In total, 12 former major champions are in the field. While some of them have not been successful in recent year, the bottom line is that this field contains many golfers who know how to win on the biggest stage. This is not your typical fall series event. It is not like Tiger Woods is playing a nationwide tour event.
Finally, the course does not look like a prototypical course for Tiger Woods. A premium is placed on tee shot accuracy which has not been a strong suit of his at nearly any point. As seen in this picture from the 2010 edition, wayward tee shots face severe penalties.
There was always a distinction between Tiger Woods in a normal event versus him in a major championship. Since his downturn, it his been obvious that he does not have the same level of motivation, especially outside of major championships. Prior to 2010, it was unfathomable to see Tiger quit competing in any event, but we have seen it several times in the last two seasons.
He will definitely enter the tournament wanting to win. However if at any point he falls out of contention, it is unlikely that he will grind it out like he did at the Masters.
Another thing that needs to be questioned is whether Tiger even wants to play this event. If he is only doing it as a favor to Fred Couples, it is unlikely to see him giving his best effort. Woods may have the Australian Open circled as his return date, rather than the Frys.com Open.
The Frys.com Open represents yet another so called comeback for Tiger Woods. With this comes distractions that would not bee seen if he was playing on a more regular basis.
Furthermore, with the hiring of Joe Lacava away from Dustin Johnson's bag and the President's Cup scenario creates many more distractions than just a regular "comeback" event.
It would be difficult for anyone to stay focused on the event at hand under these circumstances.
With everyone seemingly focused on the bigger picture, you have to wonder if Tiger is asking some of those same questions. The machine like concentration has seemed to disappear over the last two seasons.
The struggles in putting that have plagued Tiger Woods are continually overlooked. Everyone is again focused on the state of his swing under Sean Foley. The more important factor in scoring is on the putting greens.
Tiger Woods has drastically declined in putting over the last two years. Even with a good ball striking event, he needs to sink putts to win. He is constantly tinkering with his putter after using the Scotty Cameron for years. He seems to have lost the magical ability to sink big putts from 10 feet away. He is much more prone to missing short putts.
Woods is also facing an unfamiliar course with an unfamiliar caddie. There could be a great deal of indecision on the greens. Without confidence on the greens, the putting will not be there this week.
Tiger Woods has played less then six rounds of tournament golf since the Masters in April. Expecting a winning effort with so little activity is not realistic.
Tournament golf is a whole different animal than a casual round. Woods himself admits this, he has mentioned the trouble of executing his swing in a tournament setting. Fred Couples even has stated that Woods needs to play more tournaments in order to get his game back.
The bottom line with Woods is that he will again be rusty and a poor effort will likely be excused on those grounds. To judge what Tiger will be capable of in the future will have to wait until he starts playing some sort of consistent schedule in 2011.