Woods heads a field of 156 in this weeks Western Open. Its the 100th edition of the event, making it the second-longest running U.S. tournament on the PGA Tour schedule, behind the U.S. Open.
Of course, this years national championship was contested in the same surroundings as the Western, which is played on Cog Hill Golf & Country Club's Dubsdread Course (par 72, 7,224 yards) in Lemont, Ill.
Woods tied for 20th in his title defense at the 103rd U.S. Open. It marked the first time since the 1999 season that the worlds No. 1 was not the current holder of a major championship trophy. It was also his fifth consecutive tournament without a victory ' a streak than ran to six when he tied for 13th in the Buick Classic.
Such a skid has led some to bring up another s-word; the one that Woods despises most, and the one that is most ridiculous considering he won three of his first four tournaments this season.
However you look at it, Woods is winless since four-peating at the Bay Hill Invitational. That includes five events on the PGA Tour and one event in Europe.
It just the fifth time, since the start of '99, that Woods has played in five straight PGA Tour events without winning.
Thats just a sign of Tigers domination. He has amassed 37 career tour victories since turning professional in 1996. Two of those came at Cog Hill, in 1997 and 99. He went on to win the PGA Championship in that latter year at Medinah, also in the Chicago area.
Woods may be a two-time winner in this tournament, but hes not the defending champion. That distinction belongs to Jerry Kelly.
Kelly, who had earlier in 2002 won his first tour event at the Sony, shot a Sunday 65 to knock-off Davis Love III. He finished with a 19-under 269 total; two shots higher than the tournament record, set by Scott Hoch in 2001.
Kelly pocketed nearly $3 million last season, finishing sixth on the money list. This year, hes been the epitome of the on-again-off-again golfer.
He has seven top-10s in 17 starts. But in those other 10 events, he has five missed cuts and four finishes outside the top 30.
Kelly tied for fourth in his first title defense in Hawaii. That was the highlight of his season. The lowlights have come in the form of a back injury and numbness in his right leg (believed to be caused by the back problems).
A repeat victory this week would give him 810,000 reasons to feel better.