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Tour Confidential: Is Tiger the favorite to win at Hoylake? Plus, Wie's big breakthrough and a U.S. Open age limit

Tiger Woods
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Tiger Woods played his last competitive round at the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Trump National Doral in March.

Every Sunday night, conducts an e-mail roundtable with writers from Sports Illustrated and Golf Magazine. Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in the comments section below.

1. Tiger Woods returns to the PGA Tour next week for his own event at Congressional. What are your expectations for him? Is he your pick to win the British Open?

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@GaryVanSickle): I expect Tiger to have flashes of brilliance and flashes of rust. Unless he wins next week, he is not my pick to win the British.

Josh Sens, contributing writer, Golf Magazine (@JoshSens): The only thing I can guarantee we'll get from Tiger is a volley of press conference platitudes. Last we saw him, Tiger had swing issues as well as back issues. Hard to imagine he has resolved the former. Then there's the stiffer competition. Henrik Stenson is my pick in the Open this year.

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: One of Tiger's things used to be ‘Only play in a tournament thinking you can win,’ but here I think here he's primarily looking to play four rounds of golf on a good golf course. As for the British Open, I would predict that he would play. To pick him to win just seems…sentimental.

Jessica Marksbury, assistant editor, Golf Magazine (@Jess_Marksbury): I am totally surprised that Tiger is already returning to competitive golf only three months removed from back surgery. Does anyone else think that could spell disaster? To me, it seems a bit shortsighted. Why the rush? I really think he should take his time with this recovery because his re-entry into the competitive world isn't enough to keep the spark alive for golf fans for long. We want to see him win again! At the moment, I can't say he's my pick for the British Open, but I would certainly love to see him contend. Will be interesting to see how he plays at Congressional, a course he knows well and where he's enjoyed great success in years past.

Joe Passov, senior editor, Golf Magazine (@joepassov): My expectations are that he'll make the cut, and move the TV ratings needle well to the right. I don't think he'd come back right now unless he felt he was truly ready, yet this could also be a goodwill gesture to the tournament that benefits his charitable foundation, especially because he's had the misfortune to miss the event a number of times over the past six years. He's not my pick at the British Open, but after next week, he sure could be.

Jeff Ritter, senior editor, Sports Illustrated Golf Group (@Jeff_Ritter): Tiger's return is surprising, since we only recently learned that he's hitting full shots. This week I expect him to play 36-72 holes without wincing from back pain -- anything more than that feels like a bonus. He's not in my top 5 for Hoylake yet, but I reserve the right to revisit that once we get a look at him at Congressional.

Eamon Lynch, managing editor, (@eamonlynch): It's the start that matters, not his finish. His return ignites a season that has thus far been a snooze. But factor in the rust, the fear of re-injury that inevitably must shadow his first start, and the fact that his swing wasn't exactly on song before his break, and its hard to expect much. No matter how he plays at Congressional, he's always a threat to win the Open, especially on a course where he doesn't need to hit driver.

2. U.S. Women's Open champion Michelle Wie has gone from child star to fading star to superstar. With her first major victory under her belt, is Wie the new face of women's golf?

MARKSBURY: No question that the answer is yes. Wie has always been the face of women's golf. We've been scrutinizing her every move for over a decade. She showed incredible composure throughout the final round -- especially after a double bogey on 16, which she followed up with a birdie -- and she is a very deserving champion. Must be incredible to finally have the major monkey off her back.

LYNCH: Every sports update I heard on my car radio today covered Wie's quest for a major, which is hardly standard practice for a Women's Open. She never really stopped being the face of women's golf, even as she struggled throughout her career. Among the casual fans, she remained the most famous female golfer in the world. Now her game has the stature of her reputation and her brand.

BAMBERGER: Michelle Wie has not won enough to be regarded a superstar. Her power and her ability to hit shots high and low and with fade spin or draw spin, to say nothing of her improved putting, gives her enormous upside. In terms of stature in the game, she's way ahead of Rickie Fowler, but miles behind, say, Inbee Park.

VAN SICKLE: Wie has been the biggest name in women's golf for quite some time, she just hasn't had the wins to go with it. She's definitely the face of American women's golf until she piles up a few more wins, but she's a dream for LPGA marketing.

PASSOV: The only woman that truly moves the needle is Wie, and her win is great for women's golf -- and great for golf, period. She's never NOT been the face of women's golf for the past 10 years, but it hasn't been a happy face. Women's golf has a real possibility to regain the momentum it had a couple of years ago. You've got young, attractive, athletic players such as Wie and Lexi Thompson who have a chance at a legitimately interesting rivalry, plus the best fighter in the game, Stacy Lewis, plus the cool, remarkable putting prowess and repetitive swing of Inbee Park, and a very solid supporting cast. In some ways, it's more compelling than the current different-winner-each-week PGA Tour.

RITTER: Wie's been the face of women's golf, for better or for worse, for about eight years -- ever since she burst onto the scene at a teenage prodigy. And at last, she's delivering on the hype, which is extremely cool to see. Stories of redemption are sweet, and in this case it's obviously fantastic for women's golf. Is the LPGA having a great season or what?

SENS: You mean, it isn't Paulina Gretzky?

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