If you really think the PGA Tour still isn’t all about Tiger Woods, then you haven’t been paying a lick of attention to what has made news in the golf world for the past week or so. Of course, Tiger plays in his first tournament this week, the Frys.com Open at CordeValle in San Martin, Calif., since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.
First off, Tiger, who has spent the past two months honing his game with coach Sean Foley, shot a course-record 62 at Medalist Golf Club in Hobe Sound, Fla., last Friday. Tiger had 10 birdies, seven on the back nine, where he shot 29. The previous record at the prestigious course was a 64, shot by a group of 10, including course co-designer Greg Norman, Steve Marino and Jesper Parnevik. Is a practice round relevant? Well, the week before Woods won his first major title at the 1997 Masters, he fired a 59 in a practice round at Isleworth, his old neighborhood course. Tiger, of course, hasn’t won anywhere on Tour in nearly two years.
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Then, Tiger dropped out of the world’s Top 50 for the first time in nearly 15 years on Monday. That ends a streak of 778 consecutive weeks inside the Top 50, dating to when Woods (now No. 51) was No. 61 on Oct. 13, 1996. A week later, Woods won at Disney World and that run of 778 weeks in a row inside the Top 50 began.
And finally, Tiger finally got a new endorsement deal this week, signing on with Rolex. It's the first major endorsement deal for Woods in more than two years. He previously had an endorsement with Tag Heuer, which dropped him two months ago. Woods will become one of the global ambassadors for the Swiss-based watch company.
The main reason that Tiger is playing in this otherwise non-descript Fall Series event is because he was essentially told to play in at least one event before the Presidents Cup by Team USA captain Fred Couples if Tiger wanted to be a captain’s choice – that was made official last week.
Plus, this course isn’t far from Stanford, Tiger’s alma mater. This tournament also will be the debut of Tiger’s new full-time caddie, Joe LaCava, on his bag. When he tees off on Thursday, Woods will have gone 54 days without having hit a meaningful golf shot. That's the longest stretch of his career without competition when he wasn't dealing with some form of rehab.
PGA Tour Odds: Frys.com Open Favorites
Not surprisingly, Tiger is the overwhelming 6/1 favorite to win at Bodog this week. But I simply can’t bet on any golfer at that short of odds, no matter how weak the field might be. Woods has played only six competitive rounds since the Masters and has broken 70 in only one of them, the first round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. So what makes anyone think he will win this week?
Kevin Na, Paul Casey and Spencer Levin are the first group behind Tiger with 25/1 odds to win. I don’t like Na because he is coming off his first PGA Tour victory at the Justin Timberlake Shriners tournament, where on Sunday Na birdied three of the last four holes. It wouldn’t shock me if Levin won. He is a northern California native, so he should be plenty comfortable at this course and has five Top 10s this year, including T-5 last week in Las Vegas. For a while there, Casey was in striking distance of No. 1 in the world, but he has struggled most of the year with a turf toe injury. He has taken the past six weeks off to heal up. I would think he would, thus, be too rusty.
Frys.com Open PGA Tour Predictions
It’s not too often you will see a defending champion of an event at longer odds than 2010 Frys.com Open winner Rocco Mediate is this week at 125/1. Last year, when CordeValle Golf Club hosted for the first time, Mediate holed out for eagle in every round en route to a one-stroke victory. That included a hole-in-one on the par-3 third hole in the opening round. It also allowed him to keep his Tour card. However, the 48-year-old has been awful this year (injuries have played a big role) with nine missed cuts and five withdrawals in 20 events. He hasn’t had a Top-30 finish since winning here.
The pick here for best value is Tommy Gainey (50/1), who seems to be a chic choice of many golf experts this week for his first Tour win. He was impressive last week in Las Vegas with a tie for third (his fourth third-place finish this year). Gainey has seven Top 10s on the year. Only Matt Kuchar, Hunter Mahan and Jason Day have more without a win. He hasn’t played this tournament since 2008 when it was at another course.