Former Ryder Cup captain suggests Tiger Woods should ‘step aside’ as captain

November 8, 2019

On Thursday night, Presidents Cup captain Tiger Woods picked himself as one of four final members of the U.S. team. That was hardly a surprise; Woods won at the Zozo Championship just two weeks ago and is the No. 7-ranked player in the world. But does his playing capacity mean he should give up the captaincy? That’s what former European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley suggested in a tweet on Friday morning.

“I’m surprised Tiger has not stepped aside as Captain of the Presidents Cup,” he wrote. “Was one of the goals set out by Americas task force in 2014 not succession planning and for immediate future Captains to gain valuable experience?”

The “task force” in question came after McGinley’s European side took it to the U.S., 16.5-11.5, at Gleneagles in Scotland. The resulting fallout, which pitted Phil Mickelson against captain Tom Watson, led to a U.S. Team reckoning and the construction of said “task force.”

When Woods was picked for his current role as captain, it wasn’t clear he’d ever play competitively again. That came in 2017 at the Presidents Cup at Liberty National, when he was hitting chip shots but also trying to come to terms with the idea that his playing career could be over. Instead, it was just the beginning of his latest chapter which has now included wins in three consecutive PGA Tour seasons (highlighted, obviously, by the 2019 Masters).

In picking himself on Thursday night, Woods acknowledged that being a playing captain will have its challenges, but that he’ll lean on assistant captains Fred Couples, Zach Johnson and Steve Stricker to keep track of things while he’s playing.

Woods also cited his recent trip to Japan as proof that he can still travel internationally and play well. That’s important; the trip to Australia will come on the heels of Woods’ Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas.

At risk of stating the obvious, being a Ryder Cup captain is notably different from, say, being a basketball coach. Woods won’t exactly be drawing up plays in the huddle during timeouts — he’ll set the lineups and send his guys out there. These are golfers, after all. They’re used to operating on their own. Oh, and as for that Ryder Cup task force? It’s not exactly the Ten Commandments. Despite winning back the cup on home soil at Hazeltine, the U.S. team lost even worse, 17.5-10.5, at Le Golf National in 2018.

Would Woods stepping aside make the U.S. more likely to triumph at Royal Melbourne in December? It seems unlikely that it would outweigh the awkwardness of a fill-in captain taking over control. But it serves as a reminder of just how unlikely it seemed, two years ago, that Woods would be in position to make people ask these questions.