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Quick 9: Anticipation, questions surround Tiger's return

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Tiger has work to do before being competitive (2:29)

Bob Harig calls the Hero World Challenge "a nice soft landing" for Tiger Woods to make his return and explains why the bar for expectations must be set low due to his time away from the course. (2:29)

1. Tiger returns

If it seems too soon, Tiger Woods' return to competitive golf is not really surprising. The Twitter video posts in recent weeks, including driver and stinger swings, suggested that Woods was feeling good about himself and his recovery from April back surgery.

His Monday announcement that he would play the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas beginning Nov. 30 confirmed that optimism, offering a promising yet cautionary future.

Promising, because it wasn't that long ago Woods was acknowledging it was possible that his playing career could be done. Cautionary, because we've been down this road before with these comebacks, only to see more issues arise.

The difference this time? Expectations. Or the lack thereof.

Perhaps this time, Woods will return without the unrealistic goals of past attempts.

"He honestly put no expectations on this surgery and what the future was going to hold,'' said Mark Steinberg, Woods' agent. "So it's hard to compare it to anything. It was a completely different surgery than he had in the past. He honestly was putting no expectations on it. For him to say he's ready to play, I don't think he can compare it to anything else.''

2. How good can he be?

That is a question that cannot be answered with any certainty, even by Woods. The fusion surgery has taken care of the pain, he said, but it could very well hinder his mobility and flexibility. How well Woods is able to swing the golf club and -- just as important -- how much he can practice -- is still to be determined.

One of the huge impediments to that, according to Steinberg, is gone.

"The pain he was experiencing, which was the nerve pain, was excruciating,'' Steinberg said. "So far he hasn't expressed to any of us that there has been any pain whatsoever, let alone nerve pain. He had the surgery. He had it fused. And to date he hasn't had any pain. And so that's what he's going to go by. He feels good and for him it just feels good to keep progressing each day. He's excited about taking this next step.''

At last year's Hero World Challenge, Woods acknowledged that the pain he experienced from his disc issue was at times so severe that he had trouble getting out of bed. And managing it clearly became an issue, as the symptoms would often return without warning.

3. What to expect

To be blunt, not much. Not at the Hero and not for a period of time afterward. Woods led the field in birdies a year ago in the Bahamas. He also led in double-bogeys. It was a great return, but it suggested so much work was still to be done. Then it was clear he was not the same when he played at Torrey Pines and Dubai in early 2017. Despite saying otherwise, something was amiss. Whether it was nerve pain, back pain, lack of practice time due to both ... Woods did not look the same as he did in the Bahamas.

He will need to put a few tournaments together before going down the road of contending in them. And to suggest he will plan a schedule so he can "get ready for the Masters,'' is severely missing the point. It would be great if Woods tees it up at Augusta National. It would be better if the Masters is simply one in a series of tournaments that he is able to play without any setbacks.

4. Aussie void

After consecutive 11th-place finishes at the CJ Cup and WGC-HSBC Champions, Jason Day -- who began 2017 ranked No. 1 in the world -- dropped from eighth to 11th -- the first time since February, 2014 that he has been out of the top 10.

It is also the first time since July, 2014 that no Australians are ranked among the top 10.

5. Road Warrior

Colin Montgomerie grew up in Scotland and spent a good bit of his adult life living outside of London while he played the European Tour. While he was a world traveler throughout this career, Montgomerie, 54, has often said that the PGA Tour Champions has offered him a chance to look at America in a different way. "It is so big,'' he said.

To that end, he will often use a "hire car'' to travel between tournaments, even if it is a lengthy drive. So after competing in South California last week, it was in the car again for a lengthy drive before getting ready for next week's season-ending event in Phoenix. And he got to tune into a soccer game as well.

6. Goodbye to pink

Bubba Watson's experiment with the Volvik golf ball appears to be over -- because his contract to endorse the company has ended. Watson spent the better part of the past two years playing a pink golf ball that the upstart company produced, and whether or not it had any effect, his performance slipped considerably. Watson was ranked 10th at the end of 2016 and is now 63rd. He said at this week's Shriners Hospital for Children Open in Las Vegas -- his first event since being eliminated from the FedEx Cup playoffs in early September -- that he has gone back to playing a Titleist golf ball.

7. Honoring the victims

Charley Hoffman, who lives in Las Vegas and played college golf at UNLV, will be donating all of his prize money from this week's tournament there to a fund set up in the aftermath of the Oct. 1 shootings.

The prize money will be given to the Direct Impact Fund, which has been organized by PGA Tour charities, to be dispersed to various outlets in support of victims and their families. Hoffman said he would be donating a minimum of $20,000, regardless of how he fares this week.

8. Comeback or collapse?

Justin Rose won for the first time since capturing the Olympic gold medal last year by coming from 8 strokes back at the WGC-HSBC Champions. It was just the 11th time in PGA Tour history -- and first in 10 years -- that a player made up that many strokes to win.

On the other side, Dustin Johnson became the first No. 1-ranked player since Greg Norman in 1996 to cough up a 6-shot 54-hole advantage. Norman did it at the Masters, where Nick Faldo overtook him to win.

The fact that Johnson did so in China at a WGC event should make it easier to handle. So should the fact that he has been incredibly resilient after notable issues at the 2010 U.S. Open and PGA Championship, the 2011 Open and the 2015 U.S. Open. If anyone can take it in stride, it is Johnson.

"I felt fine all day,'' said Johnson, who shot 77 and didn't make a birdie. "I just could never get anything going and didn't hole any putts. It was pretty simple.''

9. Tiger bets

Predictably, Tiger Woods' return to competitive golf has come with a variety of betting possibilities. For example, he his 50-1 to win the Hero World Challenge according to odds released by Sky Bet -- the longest odds of anyone in the 18-player field. Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas are 7-1.

Among some of the other possibilities: 6-4 that he will make an eagle, 11-4 that he will finish in the top 10 and 7-2 that he will withdraw.

A bogey-free first round is 16-1, while making an ace is 150-1. A top-5 finish is 7-1.

If you want to take a flier? Woods is 300-1 to win going wire-to-wire.