Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Golfers are intrigued by Woods, too

So you're interested to see how Tiger Woods does at the Bridgestone Invitational?

Don't think you're alone. There are 75 other golfers in the field at Firestone Country Club who are wondering the same thing.

After an 11-week layoff, what is Woods going to bring to the table when he tees off at 1:40 p.m. on Thursday afternoon? Surely he's not going to be the same guy who tied for 78th (out of 80 golfers) last year at Firestone.

But to expect him to be the player he was when he was the top player in the world is probably a little out of the question, too.

Will he control his Ruthian drives? Will his short game be there? Will the red shirt again dominate Sunday? How is this whole changing caddie thing going to work out?

No one knows.

But it is THE topic dominating Bridgestone this week. At least that's what the first two days of practice rounds suggest.

Such as these snippets from participants:

- Luke Donald, on his thoughts of Tiger's chances: His expectation is to win. ...
You know, Tiger has done it a few times. He's obviously been away through injury a few times, so he's getting used to it a little bit. But I don't know what his expectation is. Obviously he always sets his standards very high, and that's the way he should be.

- Hunter Mahan on his expectations for Woods: "It's difficult because we don't -- he's so secretive. We don't know how much of him is back. Is his leg good? Is it not good? You just don't know. Hopefully he's healthy. It seemed like this was the cutoff point for his year, either he was going to be healthy and play or he wouldn't because after this, it's kind of -- he'll probably play in China or somewhere, I don't know, but it was going to be a long time before we saw him.
I think he took -- he maybe forced it earlier in the year trying to win, trying to get back, because he's so competitive. There's no one more competitive than him, and for him to sit for a length of time again after the first ACL injury, that had to be hard for him. And him working with Foley now, I'm sure he's very eager to go out there and see what he can do on the golf course. I think it's working on the range and he's doing everything he wants to do, so I think he wants to go see it on the course. I'm sure he's somewhat curious, as everyone else, to see what he's going to do out there. I think he's pretty confident in his abilities right now, and it's good that he's -- it's great for us to go play against him because he was the standard. I think I saw kind of the -- (radio interruption) I totally lost my train of thought. I need a caddie right now to get me back focused.
He was the standard of the game that we've never seen before, getting his game back there and back to where he knows he's capable of doing because it was pretty special for a while. And I think he's -- I'm biased with Foley, but I think he's got the perfect teacher, and they're going to work on the right things, and there's no one that's going to work harder than that guy. I think he's doing all the right things right now.

- Mahan, on Woods changing caddies: "Boy, like I said, you never know what's going on with Tiger in his head. You don't know what's going on in the camp. I was surprised that Stevie started working for Adam Scott. I thought that was kind of a sign that just seemed kind of strange. So maybe that was the first indicator.
I don't know, I never really -- you never really believed it until you actually heard it. I never really did. So I was surprised that they did kind of split and go their own ways. But you know, Tiger hasn't made too many bad decisions in his career. He's made a few, but when it comes to golf, the guy trusts himself and he trusts his instincts. I feel like he's making the right decision for himself. I don't know, he's Tiger Woods. I don't know if he needs -- he may just -- it might be good for him just to have a friend out there and have it kind of relaxed out there a little bit and go back to playing golf and playing Tiger Woods and his own thoughts in his own head. I'm sure he's going to be comfortable out there. He's with a buddy. I think he'll enjoy this week for sure and have fun."

- Rory McIloy on what he expects from Woods: "I don't know. I mean, I really don't know. The last tournament he played, he had to pull out after nine holes, so I think just to see how his knee holds up over 72 holes. And if he can do that, then I think the week has been -- no one expects him to come out and play well. I'm sure he expects himself to come out and play and compete, but given the length of layoff and considering that he's only been able to hit full shots for the last two weeks or whatever, it would be an unbelievable effort if he was to come back and compete.
But I think just get through 72 holes and maybe finish in the top 20 I think would be a really good effort."

Woods is simply the biggest story of the tournament, and that isn't going to change no matter if he shoots well or not.

The only question is this: What's the bigger story - if Woods plays well or if he falls apart.

Everyone wants to know what it's going to be.

Including those he is playing with.

- John Kampf

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