Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Updated: October 6, 8:14 AM ET
Tiger Woods says swing work done
By Bob Harig
SAN MARTIN, Calif. -- With a new endorsement deal in his back pocket, a new caddie on his bag, and a new-found ability to practice, Tiger Woods will return to competitive golf Thursday at the Frys.com Open.
Woods says he is healthy and that his swing overhaul, which he has worked on for months with new coach Sean Foley, is primarily finished.
"I'm at the point now where we're still fine-tuning it, but the major overhauls are done," Woods said. "I've done all that work. Now it's just fine-tuning and I'm going to be fine-tuning day to day, shot to shot. That's part of golf and part of the challenge."
The only thing left to do, Woods said, is to go out and play.
"I just need to get out there and get the reps, get the holes, hit shots, get the feel for it with different winds that come. Different shots, different lies. I had to get all of that, and then just kind of work my way gradually into what we've been doing with (swing coach) Sean (Foley)."
After an injury-plagued summer that saw him miss two major championships and miss the cut in a third, Woods is using a normally low-key Fall Series event to test his game at CordeValle Golf Club in Northern California. It will be his first tournament start in seven weeks and just his fourth since the Masters.
"I'm happy with how everything has progressed from tee to green," Woods said. "I've had a chance to practice and work on everything, which has been good, which is something that I hadn't been able to do for a while. So I have to say I'm very pleased with every facet of my game.
"I was shut down basically from the Masters until the Bridgestone. I played nine holes at the Players. That's not a lot of golf. And I really didn't practice a lot prior to that."
Woods played in the Frys pro-am Wednesday morning, when it was announced he had signed a multiyear agreement to represent Rolex as an ambassador. That was significant because it was the first major endorsement deal Woods has gotten since his personal issues surfaced two years ago.
He was also with new caddie Joe LaCava, a veteran who worked 20 years for Fred Couples and most recently with Dustin Johnson, who won the Barclays in August. Asked why he would leave a lucrative job such as the one he had with Johnson for a new one, LaCava simply said, "He's Tiger Woods."
But he hasn't played like Tiger Woods for some time.
Woods' last PGA Tour victory came at the Australian Masters in 2009, when he was the No. 1-ranked player in the world.
Despite not winning once last year, Woods began 2011 ranked No. 2 in the world, but dropped to 51st this week -- the first time he's been out of the top 50 since 1996, a short time after he turned pro.
Woods, 35, is making just his ninth start of the year on the PGA Tour and only his 10th overall in 2011. Despite a tie for fourth at the Masters in April, he suffered an injury during the third round of that tournament to both his left knee and Achilles, one that turned out to be far more serious than originally thought.
He tried to return at the Players Championship and made it through just nine holes, then shut it down again, missing both the U.S. Open and the British Open. He came back at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, where he tied for 37th, then missed the cut at the PGA Championship and failed to qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs.
On his new home course at the Medalist Golf Club near Jupiter, Fla., last week, Woods shot a course-record 62, making 10 birdies, including a back-nine 29. It was a fun round of golf with no pressure, but Woods still considered it a significant part of his comeback.
"I hadn't posted a low round in a long time," he said. "So that's something that it felt good to do, and to be honest with you, it was pretty easy and I left a few out there. ... I've started to turn the corner. I was starting to shoot some really good rounds, a bunch of 66s and 65s and I hadn't taken it deep. And that was fun to actually post a 62 because it was a pretty easy round. It's hard to believe I shot that because it didn't feel like it."
The previous best at the Greg Norman-designed Medalist was a 64, shot by several players.
"There's been over 100 tour pros who've played that course for 20 years and the best ever was 64," Foley said. "He shot 10 under. To me, it's not a sign that dominance is here again or anything like that. It was a 62, 7 under on the back nine, and it was probably one of the lowest scores he's ever shot in his life."
Whether that translates to the tournament will be part of the intrigue this week. Woods, of course, said he is here to win, although Foley chose to look at success in a different way.
"Just good control of the ball from tee to green," he said.
After the Frys, Woods has three more tournaments scheduled for this year: next month at the Australian Open in Sydney, followed by the Presidents Cup in Melbourne, then the Chevron World Challenge in early December.
Bob Harig is the golf writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.