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In the swing: Dyson cleans up as golf world awaits Woods' return

Can Simon Dyson consolidate his place in the top 50? Can Tiger still hit a golf ball? Neil Cullen has lots of questions on his mind.

Image: Peter Morrison/AP/Press Association Images

SIMON DYSON IS the new Irish Open champion.

He may not be a household name, but his victory at the weekend was his fifth win on the European Tour. Those of you who studied the recent form will also have noted his performance in the British Open where he finished in a tie for ninth position, so it may not have come as that great a surprise to see him lift the trophy on Sunday.

In fact Dyson was one of the few players in the field who was in the top 100 in the world rankings, apart from the Irish Major winners of course. He began the week in 67th but now lies in 48th as the tour moves on to the WGC Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club.

The fact that Dyson is now in the top 50 in the world rankings means that invitations to the WGC events and the Majors are now automatic as long as he stays there. But staying in the top 50 is arguably easier than getting there. Having entry to the biggest events also means playing in the events that carry the most ranking points, so there are more opportunities to accumulate a good stack of points.

It’s actually a big couple of weeks for golf. The WGC event at Firestone is quickly followed by the fourth and final Major of the year, the USPGA Championship in Atlanta, Georgia.

The big news is of course the return of Tiger Woods. Woods has dominated the Bridgestone Invitational, having won it on seven occasions, but bookmakers have him as long as 20/1 in the betting for this year’s renewal.

Whatever about the fact that Woods is returning from a long layoff, he also has a new caddie. Byron Bell is the man who has been assigned bagman duties. Bell has caddied for Woods before on an occasional basis — they actually had a win together, the 1999 Buick Invitational. The two are also good friends stretching back to high-school, so there are ingredients there for a good player-caddie relationship.

Tiger’s decision to make return at a WGC event can be looked at in two ways. Because of the limited size of the field, there is no half-way cut in WGC events. Thus, Tiger is guaranteed four days of competitive golf, barring another injury or some sort of disqualification.

Getting as much competitive golf in as possible will be a high priority for Woods, not only because of the USPGA the following week, but the end of season Fed-Ex Cup playoff events are looming on the horizon and Woods will have to make a significant move up the money list if he wants to play a part in that.

The potential downside of having four days of play and no cut is that if he is playing poorly, he has to stick it out for the four days. There’s no opportunity to bow out gracefully after two days if things aren’t going his way, as he experienced last year at the very same event. Twelve months ago, Woods finished in a tie for second last.

Ready for action?

And who knows what kind of shape his game is in this year? If we are to believe some reports, even his swing coach Sean Foley can’t answer that question.  As recently as this day last week, Foley was reported by CBS Sports’ Steve Elling as saying that that the two “have not hit any balls.”

Elling put it best himself when he asserted “it’s hard to envision that Woods could get ramped up and ready for a World Golf Championships event or a major with only a few days of preparatory work, especially in light of his physical condition and overall state of readiness.”

It’s difficult to argue with that. You can never write off Tiger Woods, but does anyone really expect him to contend at any stage over the next two weeks?

Rory McIlroy leads the betting for the Bridgestone Invitational at 12/1. Even though he finished seven shots off eventual winner Hunter Mahan last year, Rory was the only man in the field to shoot in the 60s on all four days, so he knows his way around the golf course.

The next two weeks of golf are very exciting. The opportunities are there for a new name to enter the winners’ circle in dramatic fashion, but the fields are stacked and there’s a host of guys who’ll be looking to add a big win to their CVs.

READ - Tiger to tee it up with Darren this week >

READ - Harrington: the Torrance effect (video) >

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