Tuesday, October 06, 2009

If there's been one knock on Tiger Woods as a golfer -- granted, it's
like searching for brush strokes on the ceiling of the Sistine
Chapel -- it's his performance at team events like the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup. While Woods has a stellar 3-1-1 record in Ryder Cup
singles, his Ryder Cup record in team-play events is 7-12-1, poor by
anyone's standard. (His overall record at the Presidents Cup is
decidedly better and more balanced, at 13-11-2, but includes a 3-7 mark
in foursomes.) Tiger-woods-presidents What's more, Woods's most iconic moment as a teammate was
at the end of his grim and fruitless partnership with Phil Mickelson at
the 2004 Ryder Cup
. Look up "disdainful" in the dictionary and you'll
see a picture of Tiger's reaction to Mickelson's sliced tee shot on 18.
Probably the most damning evidence against Woods the teammate came last
year in the Ryder Cup, where the underdog American team won its first
Ryder Cup since 1999
while Woods watched from home, recovering from
knee surgery.
"I certainly wish I could have been a part of that team
last year," Woods said prior to this week's Presidents Cup. "There was a different kind of chemistry last year. The guys,
we had a mix of older players and some younger guys in their 20s. Over
the years, usually I've been the youngest one. ... So this is another generation of players, so it's going to be fun to be
a part of that."
Woods has never seen the end-of-season international events as
comparing in importance to the majors, and he makes no apologies for
that. However, at this year's Presidents Cup, Woods sounds engaged
by his new position as a team elder, by having the free-wheeling Freddie Couples
as captain, and by the presence of his close friend Michael Jordan as
assistant captain.
"As far as Freddie, I'm looking forward to
it," Woods said. "I'm looking forward to seeing how Freddie speaks in front of all of
us, because as you all know, Freddie starts in one direction and ends
in another. That will be interesting to see what kind of tangents he
goes on, because it's never straight and narrow with him.
"As far as what Michael [Jordan] will bring, a lot of BS, absolutely,"
Woods laughed. "It'll be fun. I've been a part of several Ryder Cup
teams where Michael
has come in and hung out with us a couple nights here and there. But
he's never been instrumental in being a part of the team. So this will
be different. I think this will be a lot of fun. A lot of the guys are
looking forward to getting to know him. Geez, he's one of the probably
-- him and Muhammad Ali are two of the greatest athletes that have ever
lived, so it'll be fun for our entire team to hang out with him."

For his part, Couples said he played with Woods in three Presidents Cups and that Woods gets a bad rap on the
team-player question.
"It's hard to
critique the best player in the world on every little thing that he
does, and I think what happens is we have had some major talks about a
lot of things with The Presidents Cup, and the easiest way to answer
this is he's a team player," Couples said. "My goal with him is to give
the best guy that feels comfortable so that they can perform, because
Tiger is going to be there. ... Tiger doesn't win or lose every match,
but when Tiger
plays well and the other guy doesn't, it's really hard to beat two
guys, no matter who they are. And he's into this. He's definitely
pumped up and he is ready to go, and we'll see what happens, really,
Sunday night." Mark Reason of The Telegraph UK had a thoughtful take on the Woods-as-teammate issue, with an eye toward what it means for the Ryder Cup next year in Wales. (Don't get stuck on Monty's mix-up in the first sentence of the quote; Reason salvages the point for him.)

[Colin] Montgomerie said: "They won with him, they lost without him. You can't
say: 'Damn it, the No. 1 player's not playing', but Tiger in a bad Ryder Cup
will get a minimum of three points. I would rather they had someone who
doesn't get three points."
Much of what Montgomerie said is nonsense. He got the first sentence the wrong
way round, and Tiger does not get you three points in a bad Ryder Cup. Three
points is Tiger's best-ever performance in a Ryder Cup. But Montgomerie was
unusually tongue-tied because he could not say what he really felt on the
matter. He does not want to give Tiger an incentive. He does not want
America to solve the problem.
Pavin has said: "Any time Tiger is paired with someone else, his
influence is diminished. I watched him in 2006 and walked every step of the
way with him the first two days of the matches. I looked into his eyes and I
could see how much he wanted to win."
The problem remains not whether Tiger wants to win, but how to fit him into a
If Couples figures it out this week, Michael Jordan should book his plane ticket to Wales for 2010.Follow Michael Walker Jr. on Twitter.Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

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