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Expecting the Unexpected

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There was an atypical sight on a typical day in Akron.
 
Under the ever-present cloudy Ohio skies Monday - Mother Nature is more prevalent at an Ohio golf event than sharks in the Florida waters - Carlos Franco stood on the practice range, pounding balls. One after another.
 
You could also see the three-time PGA Tour winner ' long noted for his aversion to excess ' on the putting green.
 
My solution to playing better is to practice more, Franco said.
 
Say what?
 
That rationalization may work for most ' but not the carefree, free-swinging Paraguayan.
 
Is nothing sacred anymore?
 
Its been that way lately on the PGA Tour. Sights unseen are being revealed.
 
That applies most directly to the defending champion of this weeks $5 million WGC-NEC Invitational at the Firestone Country Club.
 
Tiger Woods hasnt won an event since the Memorial Tournament in early June. Even more so, he hasnt finished in the top-10 since that victory ' a span of five events.
 
That is truly a sight unseen, as it has never before happened to Woods since turning professional in 1996.
 
Last year, altogether, Woods only finished outside of the top 10 on three occasions.
 
Of course, Tiger doesn't base merit in top-10s.
 
This week, he will try and accomplish what he could do not a week ago in Duluth, Ga. ' win the same tournament three consecutive years.
 
Tiger finished a disappointing tied 29th in the PGA Championship.
 
A year ago, Woods walked away with the NEC Invitational, hitting his final approach shot in the dead of night ' and sticking it to a dead foot.
 
Woods shot rounds of 64-61-67-67 on the par-70 South Course to end the event at 21-under-par 259, 11 shots clear of runners-up Justin Leonard and Phillip Price.
 
Two years ago, Woods edged Phil Mickelson by a shot at 10-under 270.
 
Thirty-eight players are eligible to overthrow Tiger in 2001. The field is based on the 2000 U.S. and International Presidents Cup teams. The 2001 U.S. Ryder Cup team, and the current top 12 on the European Ryder Cup list.
 
Again, $1 million will go to the victor.
 
That's commonplace nowadays. There's no more shock value to a seven-digit winner's check.
 
Maybe that's what is making the recent Tour happenings most interesting. There's an element of intrigue. A spark of surprise.
 
The only thing to expect is the unexpected.
 
Hey, even the sun came out on Tuesday.