What a fascinating debate we had involving Tiger Woods, arguably the world’s most recognizable athlete, and the Ryder Cup. The Ryder Cup is one of my favorite sporting events to watch, and it’s taken on some added hype this year. Should Tiger Woods play on this year’s team? That’s the question I posed to Optimist Prime and Sports Geek, and with all that has happened with Woods this year (or hasn’t happened… on the golf course), it’s a valid question. It’s often forgotten that before that November night, 2010 was supposed to be the “Year of the Tiger,” and the year that he really closed in on Jack Nicklaus’ record 18 majors. That’s because three of the four majors were going to be played at venues at which he had won in the past (Augusta National, Pebble Beach, St. Andrews).
There’s no question that Tiger Woods, when on his game and when at peace with himself, is the best golfer in the game today… and perhaps ever. But he hasn’t even remotely approached that status for much of 2010. Outside of his top four finishes at the Masters and the U.S. Open, his highest finish at a tournament this year is tied for 19th at the Memorial. His current standing on the 2010 money list is 85th, four spots behind Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin. Sports Geek does a good job of highlighting the struggles of Eldrick Woods and those struggles are highlighted by the fact that he doesn’t practice like he used to. He recently was blasted by the British media prior to the Open Championship because he flew cross country between practice and the Open Championship so he could spend time with his kids. That’s tough, but that is the corner he has painted himself into.
As Sports Geek wrote, Tiger has worked with a new coach this week. It produced a mixed bag of results yesterday, as he finished with a 71 in the first round of the PGA Championship. That currently has him tied for 24th place. Fixing a golf swing and problems inside a golf game doesn’t happen overnight. All of us novice golfers realize that. It takes practice and more practice. It just won’t happen overnight.
However, I am awarding Optimist Prime the victory because of a point that that I really had not thought of. Obviously, the Ryder Cup is a team event, which makes it unique from any other event on Tour. A team event in an individual sport brings all types of challenges into the fold. A normal week on Tour consists of a player playing a round a golf, doing some work on the range, and then going back to the hotel and ordering room service, especially when the family is not on the road that particular week. For Ryder Cup week, it’s different. It’s “All for One” and “One For All.” Where else are you going to get Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, long rumored to have a chilly relationship, bonding over games of ping-pong? Everyone gets along and puts their ego aside, even if it’s just for a week. I can assure you that no one is playing ping pong this week.
That peaceful frame of mind would surely relax him on the course. He would have no time to go home and think about what might have been. He’d be spending time “with the guys” as he likes to say. He’d be Happy Tiger. And Happy Tiger is good for Team U.S.A., and bad for Team Europe. With the way the European team is rounding into form, Team U.S.A. is going to need all the help it can get. All things considered, as an avid American golf fan, I want twelve guys on the American team who give Team U.S.A. the best chance to win the overall competition. Tiger Woods, even not at peak form, still brings more to the table than most of the other options that would be available to Captain Pavin if Woods doesn’t make the team automatically. So yes, Tiger Woods belongs on the Ryder Cup team.