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SPORTS ILLUSTRATED CONVENED A PANEL OF GOLF EXPERTS—SENIOR WRITERS MICHAEL BAMBERGER, DAMON HACK, ALAN SHIPNUCK AND GARY VAN SICKLE, AS WELL AS SPECIAL CONTRIBAUTOR JOHN GARRITY—AND A PGA TOUR PRO (WHO PARTICIPATED ON THE CONDITION OF ANONYMITY) TO TAKE UP THESE AND OTHER QUESTIONS
The Firing Line
Van Sickle: The wait is over. Tiger Woods comes back this week to play the Bridgestone in Akron and then the PGA Championship in Atlanta. What should we expect?
Hack: Who knows what to expect from Tiger? Does Tiger even know what to expect from Tiger? In the old days he wouldn't show up unless he thought he could win. These days it may simply be about finishing a tournament.
Bamberger: I'm not surprised by Tiger's return. The boredom must be killing him. Tiger wants his old life back—the good bits, as David Feherty would say. The only way to do that is to play golf, win valuable prizes and shower in the applause of the awed.
Shipnuck: That's right. Tiger has had enough time watching SportsCenter. Dude must be dying to play golf. In Tiger's mind he's going to win the PGA to salvage his season and silence his critics. That's how the guy thinks.
Hack: I'm surprised he's coming back in 2011. But he can't catch Jack if he keeps skipping majors. With the rust, the swing changes and the potential for reinjury, I don't see how Tiger winds up in contention. It would be a great story if he did, but this feels like a lost year to me.
Garrity: Have we forgotten that Tiger finished fourth in the last two Masters with his C-minus game? I get it that he's only a shadow of the golfer he was in 2000, but Tiger's shadow can spot most pros a stroke a side and still get it done ... if it's fit. If Tiger's shadow limps to the 1st tee, all bets are off. I can see him contending in Atlanta. Yes, he's rusty, and yes, he has to ask Human Resources to hire him a new best friend. But he's still Tiger.
Shipnuck: Tiger would have a better chance if this were the Masters, where he has a home field advantage and the short game is paramount. You have to figure that Tiger's chipping and putting will be sharp, given that's all he's been able to do the last two months as far as we know. But Atlanta Athletic Club is long and tight, mandating good ball striking. Tiger used to have the best head in golf. If anyone can fix his swing simply by thinking about it, Tiger is the guy.
Garrity: He may still have the best head in golf, but he has the worst tempo. When he fixes that, he won't need to use his brain so much.