U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III has a daunting job ahead of him: filling the final spot on his squad reserved for wildcard picks. Who's on DLIII's short list? Presumably he already has his favorites -- and we have ours. For the final entry in our series, we present the case for the biggest shocker of all: Tiger Woods. Who do you think Love should select with this final pick? Let us know here.
One of the Ryder Cup task force's many brainstorms was to hire a team of quantitative analysts (“quants” for short) to help Davis Love make his captain's calculations.
Creative scheming, fellas. But let's not overthink it.
There's only one equation left for Love to look at: the greatest player of his generation + the biggest team competition in the game = a spectacle beyond measure. Q.E.D.
Tiger Woods should be the team's 12th man.
Admittedly, that proof isn't mathematical. Nothing in the stats suggests that Woods merits an upgrade from vice captain to playing vice captain. His Ryder Cup record is a mediocre 13-14-2. His medical record is flat-out grim. He's been laid up for a year, and as of this writing, he's the 741st-ranked player in the world.
But never mind the data. Feed them through the shredder and toss them in the waste bin where they belong. Sports are about narratives, not numbers. And this one would be a doozy.
The hero returns. The dark horse triumphs. The dogged victim earns redemption.
And if he fails nobly while trying? All the more compelling. The ancient Greeks built myths around lesser storylines.
Imagine the scene on Hazeltine's first tee, ringed by gladiatorial stadium seating. The world's most famous golfer, a man who once loomed nearly larger than the game, shaking off the dust and stepping to the box to play for something bigger than himself.
It's often said that golf could use an adrenaline-shot of interest. This would be the sport's Pulp Fiction moment: John Travolta with a needle into Uma Thurman's chest.
Tiger probably wouldn't pure it.
Then again, he might.
Either way, no matter.
Any strokes lost on the fairway would be made up for with inspiration-gained in the team room, to say nothing of the buzzing in the crowd.
Plus, Love could hedge his bets by keeping Tiger on a short leash. Aside from singles, he could limit Woods, at first, at least, to Friday fourballs, paired with a steady shooter like Zach Johnson, just a couple of hardened veterans with nothing to lose.
Ok, they could lose a point. But think of all their team would stand to gain.
For all the beat-downs the Americans have been dealt in recent decades, what has seemed to wear most on them is the weight of expectations. Love could lighten that load by selecting Woods, the one-time prince of golf who has fallen so far that he's fit to fill the Cinderella role, a sweet departure from the part he used to play.
Tiger, in his prime, floated on a different plane. It was hard to find him partners; his own teammates seemed intimidated playing beside him, just as fans were irked by his apparent indifference to anything but his single-minded, solo pursuits.
Today's Tiger cuts a kinder, gentler figure, mellowed by time, humbled by struggle.
He has found perspective.
He often sounds reflective.
He's said that anything beyond what he's achieved would just “be gravy.”
He comes off as a man who's looking toward his legacy, and who knows that it might not include a 15th major, who senses he'd be lucky just to nab another win.
He lobbied for his post as a vice captain, eager for a place in a team event that he once downplayed as “an exhibition.” And he's been actively involved. He's been in Love's ear.
Mellower, maybe. But you know his competitive flame still burns.
He has said his body's ready, that he plans to return to tournament play next month.
Here's hoping he's back sooner.
As the U.S. captain, Love has been entrusted with an important choice. He owes Tiger nothing, but golf fans are deserving.
Woods was right. The Ryder Cup is an exhibition.
It's in Love's power to make it a show the whole world wants to see.