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A healthy Tiger Woods is good for golf

Finally, a tournament worth watching. Tiger Woods, for better or worse, is back on the golf course. No offense to Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald or Phil Mickelson, but a golf tournament is much better with Woods in it. He hasn't played a full tournament since the Masters back in April. Woods insists his left knee is 100 percent, and when asked how long it's been since he felt this good, he said, "Years. Plural.''

A healthy Woods is good for golf. Attendance swells and TV ratings soar when Woods is in the field.

Let's face it, the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational is just another tournament without Woods. With Woods, there is a buzz. Will his shaky left knee hold up for four rounds? Will he be able to wipe the rust off his game after an 11 week layoff? Will he ever win again?

Who knows. At least he's out on the course instead of holed up in one of his multi-million dollar mansions. And when Tiger's on the course, we'll be watching.

Who's the caddie?

T he post Steve Williams era begins for Woods. He's going with childhood friend Bryon Bell on the bag this week. Not only is Bell a longtime friend, he is also president of Woods' golf course design business. That business has not been doing well lately, with several projects put on the back burner, so Bell has time to carry the bag. He caddied for Woods before, at the 2005 Funai Classic in Orlando and the U.S. Amateur Championship in 1996. Bell's name also came up during the infidelity scandal in 2009 and '10. E-mails were released by several news outlets reportedly sent by Bell to women with whom Woods had an affair. Woods later removed blame from Bell and said nobody in his inner circle had knowledge of his actions. Bell will likely be on the bag next week at the PGA Championship, but he is not being considered as a full time replacement. "Have you seen his legs?,'' Woods joked.

Before and after

On November 27, 2009, Tiger Woods crashed his SUV into a tree outside of his Isleworth home. His life, and golf career, has not been the same since:

Before accident: Total tournament earnings of $92,862,539.

After accident: $1,866,128 in earnings.

Before: 71 PGA Tour wins (14 majors).

After: Zero wins.

Before: 242 PGA events played.

After: 18 events played.

Before: Ranked No. 1 in the Official World Golf rankings by a wide margin.

After: He is currently 28th on the OWG rankings.

Before: Married.

After: Divorced.

Returning from the DL

Woods is becoming all too familiar with coming back from long layoffs due to injury. His last attempt at The Players Championship in May didn't go too well. How he does this time around at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational after 11 weeks off remains to be seen.

Here's a look at how Woods has fared after returning from injury:

April 26, 2011: Reveals he has a sprain of the medial collateral ligaments in his left knee as well as a strain in his left Achilles.

Next tournament: May 15, The Players Championship. Withdraws after nine holes due to the knee and Achilles problems.

May 9, 2010: Withdraws from Players Championship with neck pain.

Next tournament: June 6, 2010, The Memorial. Tie for 19th at 6.

June/December, 2008: Just a week after winning the U.S. Open, has reconstructive surgery on his anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. In December he ruptures the Achilles tendon in his right leg.

Next tournament: March 1, 2009, WGC-Match Play Championship. Wins his first match over Brendan Jones, loses second to Tim Clark.

April, 2008: Has arthroscopic surgery on his left knee to repair cartilage damage just two days after finishing second at the Masters.

Next tournament: June 15, 2008, U.S. Open. Defeats Rocco Mediate in a playoff to win the tournament. He was playing with two stress fractures in his left tibia.

July, 2007: Ruptures his ACL in his left knee while jogging.

Next tournament: August 5, 2007, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Won the tournament.

December, 2002: Has surgery to remove fluid around the ACL on his left knee.

Next tournament: February 16, 2020, Buick Invitational. Won the tournament.

What are the odds?

20-1 Las Vegas odds of Tiger Woods winning this week, tied for fifth best odds out of 77 players.

16-1 Odds of Woods winning from Irish bookmaker Paddy Power, which make him tied for second lowest odds.

12-1 Odds of Rory McIlroy winning by both groups, making him the tournament favorite.

11-5 Odds of Woods finishing 41st or worse by Paddy Power.

Chasing Jack

If Woods is going to catch or surpass Jack Nicklaus' major championship total, he needs to be healthy. At 35, time is no longer on his side. Here is a brief comparison between Woods and Nicklaus:

TigerJack

Majors: 1418

Total PGA wins: 7173

Age of first major: 2122

Age of 14th major: 3235

Longest streak without a major: 2y, 10m5y, 8m

A healthy Tiger Woods is good for golf 08/03/11 [Last modified: Thursday, August 4, 2011 7:31am]

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