It's still too early to say that Tiger Woods is "back"—but he's made impressive strides with his golf game in the past month, most recently finishing third at the Australian Open with rounds of 68-67-75-67.
If he hadn't suffered through a miserable third round, Tiger probably would've won that tournament. As it turns out, he only lost by two strokes to eventual champion Greg Chalmers.
It was by far his best performance since a T4 at The Masters Tournament back in April.
Tiger Woods might not be in his prime—or even close to what he once was—but he's playing some pretty good golf right now. Yes, I'm basing that on three rounds at the Australian Open. And it's just in time for the President's Cup at Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Australia this week.
The way I see it, Tiger will be the X-Factor—a title I wouldn't have imagined for him had I been asked to describe his role in this tournament a few weeks ago. There were still just too many questions about his game to predict what kind of contribution he would bring to the team.
There are still questions, but all of a sudden Tiger brings an unexpected and certainly an interesting twist to this tournament.
Is there a chance Tiger will temporarily fall back into his old habits or simply struggle with his new swing like he did in the third round of the Australian Open? Of course. It could happen. In fact, I expect it to happen from time to time. He's not perfect.
I'm betting it won't be this week, though.
Here are five reasons Tiger Woods will be the X-Factor at the 2011 Presidents Cup.
1.) Let's not forget Tiger's history in this tournament. He's 18-11-1 in the Presidents Cup and holds the record for most overall victories and wins in foursomes with nine. His experience and success has to be looked at as an advantage for the US team.
2.) So much for trying to figure out who to pair Tiger with. It was an easy decision for US team captain Fred Couples. Tiger is playing Thursday's opening session (alternate shot foursomes) with Steve Stricker. These two went undefeated two years ago at The Presidents Cup. Add last year's Ryder's Cup matches to that and they are 6-1.
By the way, Tiger and Stricker will face K.J. Choi and Adam Scott in the opening session's final pairing. It will be interesting to see how Tiger handles playing against his former caddy, Steve Williams, who's on the bag for Scott, of course. It makes for great TV—and great ratings. I think Tiger will be just fine.
3.) As I mentioned, Tiger finished in third place at the Australian Open. I don't expect him to regress this week. Rather, I expect him to thrive on the pressure and the competition of this event. He's finally healthy, he's developing confidence with his swing and he's ready to play well and win.
4.) Some of Tiger's future success will be based on proving his doubters wrong. He doesn't publicly acknowledge that he wants to "stick it" to his naysayers from the past couple years (like International team captain Greg Norman), but you know he does. He also wants to reward Couples for selecting him as a Captain's Pick.
"I'm just grateful to be on the team," Tiger said in his pre-tournament presser. "Fred could have picked anybody, and I'm thankful that he had faith in me to be a part of the team and wanted me to be a part of the team."
5.) In an article I published earlier this week, I said putting would be they key to Tiger's success in 2012. That goes for the Presidents Cup as well. Tiger likes putting on fast greens and that's exactly what he'll get at Royal Melbourne.
"They have some speed on these things," Tiger said. "I just feel more comfortable with that. I typically have never really putted slower greens well."