Two weeks removed from his runner-up finish to Michael Campbell in the U.S. Open, Woods will try and gear up his game for another major run, as he is just two weeks away from the Open Championship at St. Andrews.
This will mark the only competitive event for Woods in between the seasons second and third major championships.
And while Cog Hills Dubsdread Course in no way resembles the Old Course at St. Andrews, this could be the tune-up Tiger needs as he vies for his second Open Championship victory.
Woods has won this tournament three times. Yet hes not the defending champion.
That distinction goes to Stephen Ames. Ames kept Woods from repeating a year ago, eventually winning by two strokes over Steve Lowery.
It was Ames first PGA Tour victory, and his only one to date. In 25 starts since winning the Western, he has recorded only three top-10s. His lone top-10 finish this season came at the MCI Heritage.
Ames recent performance, combined with the fact that Woods and Jerry Kelly are the only players in the last 10 years to finish inside the top 25 the year after they won the Western, dont put him on the short list of favorites.
On the other hand, Woods is at the top of that list.
Five for the Title:
Just because Woods has had past success at a course doesnt mean hes going to factor into the final outcome (see this years Byron Nelson). But considering he has won this tournament three times (1997, 99, 03) in his last seven tries, its a good bet that hell somehow be among the final groups on Sunday. But where he finishes will likely depend on how he starts. Woods has played this tournament nine times, including twice as an amateur. Three times he shot in the 60s in the first round; and all three times he has won.
Singh may be spoiling us. It seems like forever since he last won a tournament, even though it was less than two months ago. Maybe it feels that way because he hasnt really been in the mix coming down the stretch since winning the Wachovia Championship. He was third at the Byron Nelson, but finished four back. He tied for sixth at the U.S. Open, but a balky putter really kept him from applying any pressure on Michael Campbell. In between those two events, he missed the cut at the Memorial and tied for 29th at the Booz Allen. Last week, he was tied for the lead during the third round, but dropped three shots coming home and shot 73 Sunday to tie for seventh. Perhaps he's due for a win. Singh has a good track record here, with seven top-20s in 10 career starts. He was the runner-up in 1998.
Yeah, yeah, we pick Jim Furyk every week. And we almost got it right last week at the Barclays Classic. Once again, Furyk has to be considered one of the favorites, just based on his track record at Cog Hill. He has finished inside the top 10 in five of his last six starts here. The only negative might be that this will be his eighth event in the last nine weeks, and his fifth in a row. He may be worn out, particularly considering how much effort he had to give in trying to win wire-to-wire at Westchester, where he finished runner-up.
Appleby, like Donald, can do everything well; though, he has struggled with his putter this year. Appleby won the season-opening Mercedes Championships for the second straight year, but since has only one top-10. This could be where he turns it around. Appleby has a pair of top-5s in his last three starts here.
Playing Out the Front Nine
Four more players to keep an eye on
*Robert Allenby, who won this tournament in 2000. Like his countryman Appleby, Allenby hasnt been playing up to his standards. Hes currently outside the top 60 on the money list, with only a pair of top-10s in 18 starts. But he loves this venue. In addition to his victory, he has only finished outside the top 11 only once in the last five years.
*Jerry Kelly, who won this tournament in 2002. Kelly has only one top-10 this season, but he has three top-5s in his last four starts here.
*Mark Hensby, who will defend his title next week at the John Deere Classic. Hensby tied for third in his U.S. Open debut. He also tied for third at this event a year ago. Hensby, who turns 34 Wednesday, once slept in his car in the parking lot at Cog Hill. He won the Illinois Amateur in 1994 and the Illinois Open in 1996.
*Chris Couch, who has won twice this year on the Nationwide Tour. One of those victories was at the LaSalle Bank Open in nearby Glenview, which earned him an invitation into this event. Hes never had much success on the PGA Tour, but he is in the top 50 this season in every major statistical category on the developmental circuit.