For nearly 15 years Woods ranked inside the top 50 — a streak of 778 consecutive weeks that ended Monday when the latest tour standings were updated with Woods slotted at No. 51.
“I’m excited to be back,” Woods said on his website. “I’ve had good practice sessions at home and am eager to get back under the gun.”
Those sessions reportedly included a course-record 10-under-par 62 last week at Woods’ new home course in Jupiter, Fla. It’s unclear whether the showing was the trigger that prompted Rolex to sign the former world No. 1 to his first major endorsement deal in two years on Wednesday.
Woods missed the cut at the PGA Championship in August — his last tour event — and brings new caddie Joe LaCava to the course with him this weekend.
After seven weeks off the tour, Woods will play this weekend’s event at CordeValle, and then take another month off before the Australian Open. Woods is scheduled to close out his season with the Presidents Cup and the Chevron World Challenge.
It’s anyone’s guess how he’ll hit ‘em this week with such spotty attendance and even more erratic play in 2011. But swing coach Sean Foley claims Woods is fully healthy for the first time in a long time, which is probably one reason why he’s willing to return to the spotlight at an event he wouldn’t be caught dead playing a few short years ago.
And if Woods fails to make another cut before the Presidents Cup, expect the criticism of his decision to revamp his swing once again to roll in — from Rocco Mediate and others.
On Tuesday at the CordeValle Golf Club, Mediate again questioned Woods’ decision to tinker with his mechanics.
“If he would have stayed with what he used to do, he’d have 30 (majors) by now. But he’s the kind of guy who doesn’t sit still. He wants to change and get better.”
The changes, voluntary or not, have been considerable since Woods out-lasted Mediate in an epic playoff at the 2008 U.S. Open to win his last major. All eyes will be on him as he tees off Thursday to see where all those changes have gotten him.