SAN MARTIN, California // The Tiger Woods factor has overshadowed the build-up to Thursday's Frys.com Open at CordeValle Golf Club where the former world No 1 will make his first PGA Tour appearance in almost two months.
Woods has not competed since he missed the cut at the PGA Championship in August, sparking widespread speculation about his form before he tees off in Thursday's opening round.
A 14-time major champion who is comfortably the best player of his generation, Woods has not won a tournament since the 2009 Australian Masters and his ranking has slipped to a mind-boggling 51st.
Ever since his private life unravelled in sensational fashion at the end of 2009 and he tried unsuccessfully to repair his crumbling marriage, he has been a shadow of the dominant player he once was.
He has struggled for form and fitness this season, and has yet to reap the benefits of the fourth swing change of his professional career.
His fellow American, Rocco Mediate, however, fully expects Woods to regain his stranglehold on the game once he becomes accustomed to his revamped swing.
"It's the physical motion that's causing the problem, period," Mediate said. "If he gets his golf swing back, the ball game is over.
"Trust me. He knows that once he figures out where his ball is going, it's over. He's already proved it 71 times, in 14 majors. I think he can be better than he was before."
Kevin Na, who won his first PGA Tour title at the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open after going winless in his previous 210 career starts, is delighted to have Woods in this week's field. "I am still a Tiger fan," the South Korea-born American said. "I watched him play when I was a kid.
"The biggest question people ask me is, 'Do you think he'll win again?' I say, 'Definitely'. He's definitely going to win again.
"But I also tell them that people don't realise how much other players have stepped up to his level."