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Remembering Tiger, forgetting Donald

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Setting the agenda for the week ahead with five questions for the men’s and women’s games ...

Can Tiger Woods finally find his winning form?

Listen to folks inside Isleworth, where Woods has played more than anywhere else the last two years, and you would suspect he never really lost his edge.

Inside the cozy confines of the posh development’s walls, at least, he could still play like the Tiger of old.

Listen to John Cook and Arjun Atwal talk about their practice rounds with Woods there over the last couple years, and you hear evidence Woods still has what it takes to win majors. They’ve seen the old Tiger we haven’t since the infamous crash. They’ve seen the old shot making and the old confidence at work. They’ve seen it’s all still in him.

And yet Woods’ inability to find his form outside the walls of his former home of Isleworth merely reinforced the belief that his biggest problems were still in his head, not in his swing. For whatever reason, he couldn’t take his best outside Isleworth.

So what are we to make of news that Woods shot a course-record 62 at The Medalist last week near his new Jupiter Island home in South Florida? Is his comfort zone beginning to extend into the larger golf world? Or is this more of the same? Has Woods’ simply found a new safe haven to play the game the way he used to play it?

Woods hasn’t found his winning form on his favorite PGA Tour venues since his game went sideways, and so maybe new venues are just what he needs.

Woods will make his first appearance at the Frys.com Open and CordeValle Golf Club this week against what may be the weakest PGA Tour field he’s faced since playing the Quad Cities Classic as a rookie in ’96. Just three players among the top 50 in the world rankings are playing this week, and Woods isn’t among them. No. 20 Paul Casey, No. 45 Ernie Els and No. 49 Louis Oosthuizen are the highest ranked players in attendance, but at No. 51 Woods is the headliner as he seeks to find some form before heading off to the Presidents Cup next month.


Does Luke Donald get the respect he deserves as the world’s No. 1?

Donald returns to the Madrid Masters looking to build on his quest to win this year’s money titles on both the European Tour and PGA Tour.

Though Woods would have won the money titles on both tours six times in the same season had he been a European Tour member, Donald’s seeking to become the first to officially do so. Donald is the defending champ in Madrid, where he started his run to the top of the world rankings.

Donald can build on a comfortable lead in the Race to Dubai with another title this week, but he’ll be holding his breath to win the PGA Tour money title with Webb Simpson just $68,971 behind him and Simpson looking as if he’ll make another Fall Series start to try to capture the lead. Donald said last week he’ll be tempted to make another PGA Tour start if Simpson does.

Donald, you sense, wants the money titles as more evidence he’s worthy of the world’s No. 1 ranking.

“I don't know how anyone can argue against the world rankings system,' Donald told BBC Sport at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship last week. “I've played better than anyone else over a two-year period, and no one has been as consistent as I have. I've beaten the top players week in week out, and, other than maybe one or two guys, I've earned double the amount of points than most players. Obviously, it has been a great year, and I'm not only at the top of the world, I'm increasing my lead as well.'

Without a major championship, Donald will likely continue to feel as if he’s not getting his full due.

“Yes, there are a few times where I feel a little bit forgotten, but I'll keep pressing on and let my clubs do the talking,' he said.


Will we see a Solheim Cup bounce or hangover this week?

Suzann Pettersen will make her first tournament appearance this week since helping the Europeans win the Solheim Cup in Ireland with her dynamic singles victory.

A hole down to Michelle Wie with three to play, Pettersen turned around her match with a three-birdie finish to defeat Wie and give the Euros a vital point in their victory two weeks ago.

Pettersen is among eight European Solheim Cup team members who will tee it up Friday at the LPGA Hana Bank Championship in the start of the tour’s fall Asian swing. She’s among the contingent looking to use that team victory as fuel for a strong finish this season. Eleven of the 12 Americans in the Solheim Cup will be looking for some healing salve in South Korea this week.


What kind of fuel did Ryann O’Toole get at the Solheim Cup?

O’Toole, the highly scrutinized rookie American, was terrific in her Solheim Cup debut, surpassing expectations with a 2-0-2 record, and yet she left in tears in a difficult finish.

It was almost cruel that the competition came down to O’Toole, who was 2 up with two holes to play in Sunday singles and ended up halving with Caroline Hedwall after getting in trouble behind the 18th green.

What will O’Toole take away from Killeen Castle? The confidence gained going undefeated on such a pressure-packed stage? Or the disappointment of failing to close out Hedwall to secure the American victory? We’ll get a better sense of that with O’Toole playing the LPGA Hana Bank this week.

O’Toole and teen phenom Lexi Thompson should be two of the most compelling LPGA stories heading into 2012.


Healing or hurting? What’s ahead this week for Cristie Kerr?

Less than two weeks after leaving Ireland in tears, Kerr is trying to rebound from a wrist injury in South Korea.

Kerr, unable to play her Sunday singles match because of tendinitis in her right wrist, conceded a vital point to Karen Stupples in the anchor match with the Americans losing the Solheim Cup in a tight finish.

U.S. captain Rosie Jones and assistant captains Sherri Steinhauer and Juli Inkster closely monitored Kerr, who played four matches in two days before being overcome with pain on the driving range before her scheduled singles match.

“Sunday was a very traumatic day for me,” Kerr said in her interview with media at the LPGA Hana Bank on Tuesday. “Very disappointing not only that we lost but that I couldn’t play. I know mentally for the team not having me out there playing was hard. It was just not a good situation all around …

“It’s not anybody’s fault that it happened this way. It’s not Rosie’s fault or Sherri’s or Juli’s or even my fault. It’s nobody’s fault. With my husband’s medical background and seeing the physios and the doctors, it could have flared up on Sunday like that having only played one match a day. So you just don’t know.”

Kerr said she hit balls for the first time since the Solheim Cup on Tuesday. She said she hit just 30 balls but was pain free. She’s been in a protective splint for nine days while being treated with anti-inflammatory medication and therapy.

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