Can Tiger make a winning return in the Open?
Golf writers Dave Tindall and Mark Kendall make the case for and against...

Tiger Woods hasn't won any event since the weakly-contested Australian Masters in November 2009.

And the two-year anniversary of his last US Tour win - the 2009 BMW Championship - has now passed.

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The breakdown of his marriage, the injuries and the process of trusting a new swing in tournament conditions have seriously diminished his powers and there seems no obvious reason why everything should suddenly click this week.

Tiger has played just two events since The Masters in April and they were a 37th place finish in the limited field Bridgestone Invitational and a missed cut in the USPGA in back-to-back weeks in August.

The elephant in the room though is his putting. Woods has had decent ball-striking weeks in his two-year lean period but, like many great players, he's no longer been able to consistently save himself with the flatstick.

The cold putter is a big reason why Woods just hasn't been able to string four good rounds together (amazingly, May 2010 is the last time he shot all four rounds under par).

Simply being Tiger Woods no longer cuts it. The player you see before you isn't now the world no 51 for nothing.

The bookies have him as short as 5/1 this week. Are they kidding? To put that into context, Paul Goydos is a bigger price simply to make the top 10 and the veteran American has bagged four top 10s in his last 11 starts and that included a third place last week.

This week is the start of another comeback for Woods. It's a stepping stone back to an uncertain future and no longer will he have the intimidation factor to help him on his way.

While it might take a leap of faith to see Tiger Woods winning this week given his recent results, there remain plenty of reasons why you should not rule it out.

In fact there are 71 fairly obvious ones, each and every one of his PGA Tour victories.

Of course he hasn't managed one for two years, but over that time it is hard to have imagined him in the right place either mentally or, more importantly, physically to win.

For the first time in a long while Woods will head into a tournament in decent shape physically and having had an extended period of practice to bed in his remodelled swing.

As his agent Mark Steinberg said this week: "You've got to keep in mind, he basically didn't play golf for the last two years. People can say what they want, that he hasn't played, that he hasn't won, whatever, but he hasn't been healthy enough to play."

While it's probably wise not to go overboard about his recent course record 62 around his home course Medalist, the noises coming out of the Woods camp are positive.

And it's worth bearing in mind where he's playing this week; at the Open, a Fall Series event with a limited field. He's not rushing himself back for a major championship with all of the world's best players waiting to take him on.

Woods insists he has finally had the chance to do the work away from the course that everybody making changes to their game needs to put in and declared himself "excited" by his prospects heading in.

Tellingly his peers still believe it is only a matter of time before he wins again and, provided his putter is at least warm, it could easily be this week.

As last year's champion Rocco 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."