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PGA Tour Confidential: Previewing Tiger's return and the Timberlake Open

Tiger Woods, Round 1, 2011 PGA
Matt Sullivan/Reuters
Tiger Woods returns this week at the Frys.com Open.

Every week of the 2011 PGA Tour season, the editorial staff of the SI Golf Group will conduct an e-mail roundtable. Check in on Mondays for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in the comments section below.

ASSESSING TIGER'S LATEST COMEBACK
Mike Walker, senior editor, Golf Magazine: Welcome back to another round of PGA Tour Confidential. We've got a lot to get through, so let's get started with the topic of the week: Tiger Woods. (Sorry, Briny Baird and Bryce Molder.) After pronouncing himself fit and healthy enough for sufficient practice time with swing coach Sean Foley, Tiger showed up at the Frys.com Open at CordeValle and finished T30, with rounds of 73-68-68-68. What did you think of Tiger's performance this week, and did he change your view of his long-term prospects?

Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: It was about what I expected: some spectacular shot-making, but the consistency still isn't there. He has to be concerned about the short game. The putter is not cooperating, and what is up with his bunker play? I'll say it again: the guy needs to play more.

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Tiger always talks about getting in his reps. He played four rounds with a cut in the first time in forever. He needs way more reps. There's no evidence that he's going to get them.

David Dusek, deputy editor, Golf.com: Tiger made some good swings, some bad swings, threw his driver, missed some putts, made some putts and continued to play inconsistent golf. It's what I expected to see.

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: A mixed bag for Tiger. Some good signs, some causes for concern. As Mr. Bamberger said, he needs more reps, more tournaments.

Have a question for Gary Van Sickle's mailbag? E-mail editor@golf.com or ask it on Facebook.

Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Tiger's performance was a Turn of the Screw type of thing: you can see whatever you want to see. If you think he's done, you'll focus on the missed putts and fairways and mediocre finish. If you believe he's going to win again, you'll see the holed putts, moments of crisp iron play and improvement from his last appearance. I think he looks like he's on the way, but this week won't change anyone's mind.

Stephanie Wei, contributor, SI Golf+: Tiger shot three straight rounds in the 60s for the first time this year, which shows progress. I can't believe we're applauding him for his "consistent" play and T30 finish at the Frys.com Open. How times have changed!

Damon Hack, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I can't get jazzed about a T30 during football season. Three 68s are solid, but this is Tiger Woods we're talking about.

Charlie Hanger, executive editor, Golf.com: Definitely inconsistent, but he's making enough birdies to win some matches at the Presidents Cup. Couples must be feeling pretty good about his pick. Not great, but pretty good. Imagine Freddy's mood if Tiger had blown up and missed the cut?

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I actually thought he showed improvement. The scary thing is that Tiger plays well in stretches and then makes a truly awful swing. He's just as likely to miss left as right. That just destroys your confidence.

Van Sickle: Alan is right. He doesn't look like one of the 12 best players in America and certainly doesn't seem ready for a Presidents Cup. Of course, he's a captain's pick so it's not as if he's expected to play all five matches. If he were going to step aside and let Keegan Bradley take his place, he would've done so by now. Fred can fit Tiger in when and where he wants in Australia. But I don't think we'll see him five times.

Godich: Fred has to be wondering how wise it would be to send him out in alternate shot.

Rick Lipsey, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: It would be very surprising if Tiger sits even one match.

Bamberger: I agree. Tiger's strength is his intimidation factor, not based on how he's playing but on his 14 majors.

Van Sickle: I disagree. If Tiger is playing like this, I'd be very surprised if he didn't sit for at least one match. Fred has to be more concerned about whether Steve Stricker is going to be healthy enough to play.

Tell us what you think: Did Tiger show that he is deserving of being a Presidents Cup captain's pick?

SHOULD TIGER PLAY ANOTHER FALL SERIES EVENT?
Walker: After his round, Tiger said he wouldn't be adding another Fall Series event prior to the Presidents Cup because he was "pretty busy." Bad idea, or will this tournament and some more practice with coach Sean Foley in Florida be enough to get ready for November?

Dusek: Busy with what? If Tiger's children are going to be staying with him, I give him a partial pass, but he's been "off" since the PGA Championship in early August. Tiger said he needs to play more, to compete more, but instead of adding another event he's going back into hibernation. Bad idea.

Shipnuck: All he needs is more reps. Which he'll get in, like, a month. His schedule is utterly baffling.

Wei: I get that he wants to be a good dad, but would it be impossible to switch weekends or something? The Disney is right up the road from him.

Godich: With all the good shots he hit this week, Tiger had something he could have really built on. I don't know what more reps with Foley will do. The only way Tiger is going to get his edge back is by teeing it up in competition.

Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group This tournament was all about keeping the critics off Fred Couples's back. Our Presidents Cup captain first said that TW didn't have to prove anything to be a captain's pick. Outrage ensued. Then Couples said TW had to play in a Fall Series event, and he did.

Van Sickle: Once again, Tiger wins no charm points for his curt Golf Channel interview, in which he largely failed to answer the questions. He completely dodged the question about the state of his game now. Nothing has changed; it's still Tiger against the world (all of us). I'm sure he can't wait to reclaim his place at the top, but that day, if it ever happens, is a ways off. You'd think it wouldn't be too tough to play a tour event in Orlando. But that's his choice. It's too early to second guess it.

Bamberger: Just the suggestion of Tiger playing more fall golf must bruise his ego. He should play more, of course, but we see him only as a professional golfer, and he sees much more.

Hack: It would have been cool to see Tiger on a love-of-the-game barnstorming tour of the Fall Series. Not realistic, I know, but cool.

Van Sickle: Another reason for Tiger to play more, especially early next year, is the circus atmosphere at the Frys.com, caused by his rare appearance. Tiger playing is like spotting a rare endangered bird or Howard Hughes. That just adds to the pressure of the week for him. He needs to get out and play 20 or 22 times on Tour next year and get his career back to normal. At least, normal for him.

Bamberger: Tiger's never played a heavy schedule, and he certainly won't start now. The less he plays, the more demand there is for him.

Godich: He doesn't care about the demand. He just wants to win majors.

Tell us what you think: Should Tiger play another Fall Series event?

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