New swing. New caddie. New start.
Fourteen-time major champion Tiger Woods tees up in California this week for the second Fall Series event on the PGA Tour, looking to capture his first title for two years.
After failing to qualify for the FedEx Cup Playoffs, following a missed cut in his last event at the US PGA Championship, Woods lines up at CordeValle Golf Club ranked 51st in the world – his worst position for nearly 15 years.
Though, playing here was always part of Plan B.
“I always enjoy competing in my home state, and this tournament fits my schedule perfectly. I'm looking forward to seeing some old friends,” said Woods, who tees off the opening two rounds with 2010 Open champion Louis Oosthuizen and American youngster Patrick Cantlay.
“John Fry and his company have supported the Tour and I've heard good things about the event and the golf course. One of my goals this year was to participate in a tournament I hadn't played before. And now I will.”
Sure, Tiger. Nothing to do with the fact your agent Mark Steinberg is lining up a long-term sponsorship deal with Frys?
Woods, who put his erratic performance at Atlanta Athletic Club down to his limited practice schedule with his coach Sean Foley because of his knee and left Achilles injuries, insists he’s been working harder than ever, grooving the alterations intended to place less stress on his knee.
“Training has gone great,” added Woods, who has been handed a wildcard pick for the Presidents Cup by US captain Fred Couples.
“Strength and explosiveness have come back and now I’m just trying to get my feel back. I’m really excited to get back out and compete, knowing I’m fully healthy enough to do it now.”
Reports in the United States suggest Woods shot a course-record 62 at Medalist, where he now spends most of his time practising, at the weekend.
If you’re one for the history books, it might be worth noting Woods carded a course-record 59 at Isleworth, his former club base, prior to winning his first career major at the 1997 Masters.
It’s safe to say much has changed since then, both on the course and off it for Woods and his fellow professionals, but the interest generated by his return to action is certainly no different.
When Woods officially announced his entry on August 29, ticket sales have gone through the roof with an estimated 70,000 fans set to turn up, in contrast to the 30,000 of last year.
Elsewhere, Paul Casey turns to the more pressing matter of retaining his PGA Tour card.
Arizona-based Englishman Casey, who lies 147th on the PGA Tour money list, needs to finish inside the top 125 to preserve his status, and despite a season disrupted by a toe injury, has no medical exemption to fall back on.
Should he fail, the World No.20 can at least take up his European Tour card that is already secure for next season.
South African major champions Ernie Els and Oosthuizen are other big names in action, alongside defending champion Rocco Mediate, who is searching for his first top-30 finish since last year’s narrow one-shot victory over Bo Van Pelt and Alex Prugh.
CordeValle Golf Club, San Martin, California
Thursday October 6 to Sunday October 9
Par-71; 7,333 yards
$5,000,000 (winner: $900,000)
Rocco Mediate (-15)
Most wins: 1 Rocco Mediate (2010), Troy Matteson (2009), Cameron Beckman (2008), Mike Weir (2007)
Lowest score to par: -18 Troy Matteson (2009) and Cameron Beckman (2008)
Did you know?
Defending champion Rocco Mediate holed out for eagle in every round, including a hole-in-one on the par-3 3rd.
Thursday: Sky Sports 3 from 10pm
Friday: Sky Sports 2 from 10.30pm
Saturday: Sky Sports 3 from 10pm
Sunday: Sky Sports 1 from 9.30pm