Well we can end the speculation now. At a press conference Wednesday, 2016 American Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III announced three additional assistants as for a US side seeking to once again grab hold of the competition. Their names? Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk and, yes, Tiger Woods.
Furyk’s inclusion in the group, believe it or not, could be the most jarring. The West Chester, Pennsylvania native played well enough in 2015, including a win and seven top-10’s in 19 events, to automatically qualify for the Presidents Cup. But mounting injuries prevented Furyk from ever teeing it up in South Korea and it appears the 2014 Ryder Cup could remain his last swing in a major international tournament.
Woods, however, will always be the headline. With his good friend Love in charge, many felt that Woods’ coaching role in Hazeltine was all but given. Then again, one can never dismiss or overlook Tiger’s pride. He wanted to play and he still wants to play. Love said that they’ll cross that bridge when they get to it. It’s just fair to suggest Woods won’t be healthy enough to cross without significant help.
After yet another back surgery, Tiger won’t be ready to golf until January at the earliest. His goal will be to be close to 100 percent by The Masters. The problem is, even when he’s been ‘healthy” in the last few seasons Tiger has struggled tremendously. Automatic qualification is a long shot already, especially considering the young Americans flying up the rankings—Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed, Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka could make up the core by next fall. Will there be space for the likes of elder statesmen like Woods and Phil Mickelson? Will players vouch for Tiger the same way they did for Lefty prior to the Presidents Cup?
Unlikely. And then there’s Woods’ credentials as a coach. For starters, his Ryder Cup record, 13-17-3, leaves a lot to be desired. Then there’s his personality. Tiger has always been private, which would suggest he lacks the openness to be a quality mentor. Woods won with his unrivaled ferocity. That’s difficult to share with fellow professionals. So too is his otherworldly ability to escape danger. One can imagine the following conversation after an unlucky American buries a shot in a fairway bunker.
“Tiger, what would you do from this lie?”
“Six-iron. Fly it just to the right of the green to clear the water in the front.”
It recalls an exchange NHL goon Todd Fedoruk once had with Wayne Gretzky, aka Dustin Johnson’s father-in-law, when the latter coached the Phoenix Coyotes. Gretzky outlined a complicated drill on the white board then quickly became incredulous as to why his players couldn’t execute on the ice. Frustrated, Fedoruk told the Great One, “I’m not f-ing Wayne Gretzky.”
At any rate, it’s nice to hear Ryder Cup chatter a near full-year before the competition begins in Minnesota.