Tiger Woods is back on the PGA Tour. He tees off today against Brendan Jones in the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona after taking eight months off for knee surgery. Poor Brendan Jones. Now that Tiger is back, the rest of the Tour is playing for second. The Tour's television ratings will skyrocket, sponsors will jump back on board and the economy will right itself. Well, maybe that's expecting too much. But here are 10 things you can expect now that golf's best player is competing again.
1. He will be good right away
Tiger doesn't do anything unless he thinks he can win. In his eyes, second place is just the first loser. If he says his health is 100 percent and his swing is fine tuned, believe it. "That's my intent, to go in there and win," Woods said on a conference call last week. "Nothing has ever changed."
2. Golf is back in the mainstream
Ratings were nearly cut in half when Woods was off the Tour. Interest in the final two majors without Woods waned. Loyal golf fans will watch the Tour no matter what, but casual fans will keep an eye on the sport now that Woods is back. "We need him, period,'' Rocco Mediate told PGATour.com. "He's the man. He's the king. He's it.''
3. Tiger will play at his own pace
PGA commisioner Tim Finchem sent out a memo to players saying they should try to play as many tournaments as possible in order to keep sponsors happy. That doesn't apply to Woods. He might not even play the minimum of 15 tournaments this year, but don't expect the Tour to say anything to Woods. He'll go slowly on the knee, but likely play in all four majors.
4. Don't expect Tiger in Palm Harbor
Woods said he would like to play in at least two tournaments before the Masters, but it likely won't be the Transitions Championship on March 19-22 at Innisbrook. Aside from this week, he'll probably play in the WGC event March 12-15 at Doral and perhaps the Arnold Palmer Invitational two weeks later in his adopted hometown, Orlando.
5. Tiger vs. Phil will be revived
Granted, Phil Mickelson didn't exactly step up when Woods was out for eight months, but he is coming off a win in Los Angeles. Before the year is over, expect one of the two to say something in the media that will re-ignite the rivalry.
6. Woods will win the PGA Comeback Player of the Year
This is one he hasn't won yet, so why not add it to the resume? Unless a player steps up (and nobody has since Woods has been out there) Tiger only needs an average year to claim the award.
7. Tiger will motivate other top-10 players
Sergio Garcia got bumped as the world's No. 1 player just because Woods announced his return. Think he'll be motivated to get it back? Mickelson, Padraig Harrington and Vijay Singh could also make a run at the top spot with a great season.
8. Tiger will bag another major
It might not be at Augusta in early April, but the U.S. Open is back at Bethpage Black in New York, a ridiculously hard public course where he won in 2002. Woods has 14 majors, four short of Jack Nicklaus.
9 Woods will lose more than he wins
While he wants to win every tournament, he can't win them all, right? He had an incredible record last year of four wins in six events on a wobbly leg. After eight weeks off, you would guess stamina would be a factor. But it's a safe bet he'll make every cut and be a pest most Sundays.
10. His return means millions for the Tour
In tournaments that Tiger plays, courses will be packed. Sponsors will be willing to pony up if Tiger is there all week. His return comes just in time for a Tour dealing with the loss of sponsors and fans, like most other professional sports entities.