Tiger Woods Makes Return To PGA Betting Field

By: Willie Bee | Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Tiger Woods makes his return to the golf course this week when the PGA Tour heads to Akron, Ohio for the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational.  The event gets underway Thursday morning (5:40 a.m. PT) on the South Course at Firestone Country Club.

In case you're thinking Woods is simply warming up for next week's PGA Championship in Atlanta, keep in mind he's won this tournament on this course seven times, the first in 1999 and most recently in 2009.

Woods' addition completes a star-studded field that includes the winners of this year's three majors – Charl Schwartzel along with Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke.

US Open champ McIlroy opened as the 12/1 favorite at Firestone followed by a quartet of golfers at 16/1, Woods and fellow American Steve Stricker along with England's duo of Luke Donald and Lee Westwood who are 1-2 respectively in the World Golf Rankings.

The last time we saw Woods he was withdrawing during the first round of The Players Championship in mid-May.  His limp from knee and Achilles injuries is reportedly gone after a quick practice session Tuesday morning.  Also missing is caddie Steve Williams whose place is being temporarily taken by Byron Bell, Woods' longtime friend.

Woods will be paired in the first two rounds with Clarke, the British Open champion and the winner of this tournament in 2003.  Clarke is seen as a long shot this weekend at 80/1.

Defending champion Hunter Mahan (30/1) will play Thursday and Friday with McIlroy. Westwood is paired with McIlroy's Irish compatriot Graeme McDowell (50/1) and Donald will play the first two rounds alongside Masters winner Schwartzel (30/1).

Martin Kaymer, third in the latest rankings, is listed at 25/1 as he attempts to become the first German to win the tourney.  He'll be paired with American Bubba Watson (40/1) who is ranked 14th.

Another interesting pairing of golf betting favorites is Phil Mickelson (20/1) and Jason Day (35/1).  Mickelson won here in 1996 when the event was known as the NEC World Series of Golf.  'Lefty' will be looking for his second tour win this season after taking April's Shell Houston Open by three strokes.

Day is hoping to become the third Australian to win the tournament, with two-time champion Greg Norman (1995, 1997) and Craig Parry (2002) the others.  He slumped to a 30th-place finish at Royal St. George's a few weeks back after second-place finishes at the Masters and US Open.

Dustin Johnson, who tied Mickelson for second in the British Open, deserves consideration at 20/1 as does Rickie Fowler (28/1) who tied for fifth at Royal St. George's.

Thomas Bjorn (150/1), who held the first-round lead at the British Open before finishing fourth, is a long shot as is Scott Stallings (175/1) who won The Greenbrier Classic last week.

The South Course at Firestone plays 7,400-yards long with its signature hole the 667-yard, par-5 16th.  This weekend's purse is $8.5 million and has 550 FedEx Cup points to spread around.

Weather shouldn't be an issue the first two rounds with high temps in the mid-80s and little wind, but rain chances increase late Friday afternoon and showers are expected that evening.

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