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Tiger Woods could return at Firestone
July 27, 2011

Tiger Woods made it clear at last month’s AT&T National he wasn’t finished golfing this year. If he is indeed planning a comeback, next week’s Bridgestone Invitational would seem to be the perfect venue for a grand return.

Knee and heel injuries have prevented Woods from playing since he withdrew during the first round of The Players Championship in early May. Speculation is mounting now that Woods is planning on playing next week at Firestone. He has until the end of business on Friday to notify the tour if he will play next week. He has often waited until the last minute to enter fields in the past.

“He has a lot of good memories here,” Bridgestone Invitational Executive Director Don Padgett said. “If he’s healthy enough to make the start, we’d be thrilled to have him.”

Woods has dominated at Firestone, winning seven times in his 12 appearances, but he slumped to 18 over last year to finish tied for last.

“He’s keeping this on a short leash with who knows,” said one source within the PGA who spoke on condition of anonymity. “It’s as good of a tournament as anywhere for him to come back because he plays well there, he’s comfortable there and he had a disappointing year there last year. He might want to prove something to come back there.”

It makes sense for Woods to return at Firestone, particularly since it falls the week before the PGA Championship in Atlanta. If Woods doesn’t make it back in time for the final major, there isn’t much sense in returning at all this year.

He has never missed more than two majors in a season, and he’s already missed two this season. Since he likely wouldn’t want a major to be his first competitive round in three months, Bridgestone serves as the perfect warm-up since the no-cut field would assure him of four rounds on a world-class course.

Asked prior to the AT&T National at the end of June about his future, Woods said he would be “very surprised” if he didn’t return to golf this year.

“If I had knee surgery and I was out for a while, then it’s a totally different deal,” Woods said. “I haven’t gone under the knife. I’m just strengthening and trying to get this thing stronger and explosive again.”

Woods, who fell out of the top 20 in the world rankings this week for the first time in 14 years, will need a new caddie. He fired former caddie Steve Williams in a move that shocked most of the golf world. Predicting Williams’ replacement has become as hot of a topic as predicting when Woods will return.

Names range from Tony Navarro, who is well-respected in the golf world and without a steady bag, to Paul Tesori (formerly with Vijay Singh and Sean O’Hair), Colin Byrne (previously with Retief Goosen) and Brett Waldman, who is presently playing on the Nationwide Tour.

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