Now on the First Tee, the No. 51 Player in the World…
By Stephanie Wei under Tiger Woods

Tiger: I mean, it can't get any worse, right?

Tiger Woods is making his fourth (or is it fifth? I’ve lost track) comeback to competitive golf this week at the Frys.com Open at CordeValle in northern California. It will be his first event since he shot 77-73 to miss the cut at the PGA Championship nearly two months ago.

Naturally, this Fall Series event held in what’s been dubbed as “silly season” has created a ton of buzz because these days, it seems like every time Tiger tees it up, it receives so much publicity that we almost treat it like a major! Have you seen the Golf Channel promos?? (Don’t blame ’em, I’d do the same thing if I were a GC exec.) I feel like we’re almost more intrigued with what Tiger does on the golf course since his fall from grace than we were pre-hydrant era. Which makes sense because it’s become just a tad more unpredictable.

I’m definitely curious about how Tiger will do, but not enough to fly across the country this time around. (I’m not letting him control my life…anymore…for now.) I’ll definitely tune in to the telecast Thursday and Friday, but I’m not making any bold predictions and declarations on what to expect because I guess I don’t really have any. Well, maybe one — I think he’ll play better than he did at the PGA! (Hehe.)

I know he shot a course-record 62 at his new home track, Medalist GC, a very, very challenging test, but it was still just for kicks and giggles. And like I’ve said in PGA Tour Confidential several times, Tiger’s decision to hire Joe LaCava inspires more confidence in his comeback. Joe is not only one of the most-respected caddies in the game, but I also think he’ll be good for Tiger on the course.

I’m wondering if Tiger has been distracted at all by his ex-wife Elin Nordegren’s rumored imminent engagement to billionaire Jamie Dingman. Then again, maybe he’s channeled any resentment or jealousy to working harder than ever on his game. Maybe it’s a positive fuel that has him fired up. Of course, if the rumors are true…Who knows, I just wanted to throw in that bit of gossip, obviously.

The AP’s Doug Ferguson writes that this is a cameo more than a comeback for Tiger and what he’ll do on the course is unpredictable:

Less predictable is what Woods will do on the course. He is capable of winning at CordeValle, because no matter what he has or hasn’t done in the last two years, he is capable of anything.

“I think this is a fresh start,” swing coach Sean Foley said Tuesday.

And then, Woods will stop again.

What makes this feel like a cameo appearance is Woods has been gone for seven weeks, and after the Frys.com Open, he won’t compete again for a full month when he plays in the Australian Open. He has the inaugural Tiger Woods Invitational next week at Pebble Beach—essentially a fundraiser for his foundation—and most likely has his two children the following week. His schedule was set long before Woods knew how this season would pan out.

After the Australian Open is the Presidents Cup, and then a week off before Woods ends his season at the Chevron World Challenge.

That’s four tournaments over the final three months of the year, hardly the kind of schedule for a player to build any momentum, even a guy who rarely plays more than about 20 times a year even in the best of times.

The best measure of any comeback won’t start until 2012.

In last week’s conference call for the Presidents Cup, Tiger said he was more prepared than he was for his last stint at Firestone and the PGA. Swing coach Sean Foley backed that up:

Foley said Woods practiced for about 10 hours before showing up at Firestone, where a good opening round (68) turned into another mediocre week (tied for 37th). He went home for a few days before going to Atlanta Athletic Club, where he fueled more speculation that his best golf was behind him.

“Here you’ve had all this time off as he was trying to do a new swing,” Foley said. “He was quite ingrained when he took time off before and came back to it because it was the swing he was doing. This is really the perfect storm— injured, changing his swing, not being able to put a lot of time into it. That’s the perfect storm for not playing to the level you can.”

“I believe in the direction we’re headed,” he said. “And I obviously believe in how great he is.”

What do you expect from Tiger? Over/under he’ll make the cut? Win? Top ten? Someone should organize a pool…I’m willing to give out prizes for winners if someone thinks of a fun/interesting contest for “What Will Tiger Do?”!

(AP Photo/Dave Martin)