Coming off a missed cut at the PGA Championship a few weeks ago, Tiger Woods speculated that he would have to reevaluate his health in order to be considered as a Captain’s Pick for the upcoming Ryder Cup. He worked the media as he always does, saying several things but not offering much content. He jetted off the runway in Louisville heading towards his enclave in South Florida. Many golf fans held their collective red, white and blue breath hoping Tiger would heal.
Then came the announcement that Tiger was in no condition to tee it up at Gleneagles in September. His doctors advised him to continue his rehab and the former #1 commented he needed to get stronger. Looking at Tiger Woods these days you wonder if that’s possible. His physique is as solid as those stingers he used to stripe fairways with. Yet that is Tiger – more strength, more reps and more range time. He’s always been that way.
The media soaked up the announcement in a soupy manner such that Tiger has become more personable and thoughtful since he had to lift his Escalade off that fire hydrant. Wasn’t it great that he let Captain Watson off the hook with his decision? What a fine gesture of sportsmanship, maturity, and genuine concern for the Ryder Cup. Well, paint it as you like but this whole episode was another choreographed presentation devised by Tiger, INC. He never wanted to play in this competition.
How can that be you ask? There are a variety of circumstances supporting my view. First, the record – hardly stellar at 13-14-2. In partner play he’s a paltry 9-13-1, hardly reflective of this era’s greatest player. Face it, he doesn’t like playing with someone else. Put him in a singles match and the record flips to 4-1-1. You can’t change a Tiger’s stripes and this one is only geared for individual competition.
Secondly, is he really a great influence in the team room? Maybe he can play a little ping-pong but it has been said Tiger is just the same old Tiger folks see week-to-week on tour.
Third, the only victory for the US since 2000 came at Valhalla with a Tigerless-team. He played for the winning squad at the Country Club in 1999, but that was before he took the golf world by storm the following year by winning three consecutive major championships.
Another consideration is that much of Tiger’s game has been built upon an intimidation factor that is no longer present. Nicklaus and Hogan had it. In the early part of this century Tiger won several events by simply showing up. There wasn’t a shot he couldn’t pull off, a putt that didn’t find the center of the hole or an opponent that could challenge him. Sure, Bob May caught lightening in a bottle at the 2000 PGA, but name another player who assumed this role when Tiger had his “A” game. The fact is by the time Saturday rolled around Tiger had pretty much decided many of his wins with dominant play. He is the greatest individual player of our time.
Finally there is the issue of time. Tiger has not hoisted a major trophy since 2008. As he approaches forty, his window is closing on Jack’s number. His mind right now (well, after he just fired Sean Foley) is on Augusta. He will drive down Magnolia Lane as the underdog while Rory gets all the focus. It is an ideal situation for Woods to recapture his dominance.
Ryder Cup participation for Woods this year offers no redeeming value. Besides he truly has an issue with his back and the rotational move Foley instituted in his swing seems to have “back”fired. Yes, he did win five events in 2013 but Tiger’s next chance at a major will be in 2015 at a venue where he has four wins. Tick…tick….tick…..
So as Captain Watson searches to put his “Dirty Dozen” together, the task looks daunting. The Euro’s are loaded. That makes me think the Americans have a great chance for bringing back the cup. Tiger’s eloquent dismissal will be seen as a key in the victory. As he sits in his weight room taking a break from his work out on Sunday, he’ll watch his fellow competitors pouring champagne in the pouring Scottish rain. I’ll bet he even calls Watson shortly after congratulating him on a fine captaincy. It will all be managed for the media’s benefit.
On Monday morning as he wakes up Tiger will have two thoughts — #1, I’m so glad I didn’t have to play in that thing. #2, Only 195 days til Augusta.