Tiger Woods to return to Firestone with new caddie and same old swing coach

Tiger Woods announces he'll return to golf at next week's Bridgestone Invitational

Apparently the fact that Tiger Woods’ current swing coach Sean Foley had no idea what No. 21’s playing plans were, but former coach Hank Haney accurately predicted not only the time and place of Tiger’s return but who would be on his bag was just a funny coincidence.

“He plays [at Bridgestone] or this year is done and career in jeopardy,” @HankDHaney tweeted Tuesday, “but he will be there.” And that was shortly after Haney gazed into his crystal ball and pronounced that Byron Bell would handle the luggage for his old school pal.

Despite the seeming disparity in knowledge of all things Woods, Twitter updates Thursday night confirmed that Foley was still a member in good standing of Team Tiger and would meet up with Woods tomorrow.

“For those wondering,” PGATour.com’s Brian Wacker tweeted, “Sean Foley is still working with Tiger Woods, has spoken to him and will see him on Friday.”

Now that that’s cleared up, perhaps you remember Tiger’s new bagman. Bell caddied for Woods in the 1999 and 2000 Buick Invitationals after Tiger dumped Mike “Fluff” Cowen. He’s also the president of Woods’ golf course design firm.

Off the course, Bell arranged liaisons between Woods and at least one of the golfer’s former mistresses. He handled the travel plans for Rachel Uchitel’s trip to Australia in November 2009 so she could help Tiger celebrate the last golf tourney he won, the Aussie Masters.

But back to the news of the day, which Woods broke on his website earlier Thursday.

“I’m excited to get back out there,” Woods said in his online announcement of his latest return to competitive golf. He has been idle since May 12, when he withdrew from the Players Championship “after sustaining a mild medial collateral ligament strain to his left knee and aggravating a strained left Achilles tendon,” according to tigerwoods.com. He also carded a 6-over in nine holes before quitting.

In his statement, Woods acknowledged that he “just recently began hitting practice balls,” so perhaps Tiger’s doctors gave him the go-ahead after Foley told CBSSports.com on Tuesday that, “We have not hit any balls.”

In any case, if Woods is ready to compete — and that’s a rather large if, considering his injuries; the probability that he’s had precious little practice time; and the fact that he’ll be without long-time caddie Steve Williams, whom he fired last week — the timing makes sense. Tiger has “had great success at Firestone,” having won the event seven times, as his statement said. His most recent memory of Firestone was not so friendly, however, as he finished 78th last year — just two slots clear of DFL.

Playing Bridgestone also affords Woods a chance to tune up for the final major of the season, the Players Championship, the following week. And if he hopes to be compete for the FedEx Cup, he needs to pad his points total just to make it to the so-called playoffs.

In his three-month absence, Woods plummeted from 81st on the FedExCup leaderboard to 133rd. Next week’s competition and the PGA Championship are the only events left for him to play his way into the first round of the elimination tourney at The Barclays.

Oh, and barring further injury, it’s a safe bet that Woods will play through the weekend at the Bridgestone. There is no cut.

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