Tiger Woods, flushed with his long-awaited comeback victory and having a little dig at those who doubted him, has a new target – improving his frankly abysmal Ryder Cup record.
The last twice the US has won has been when Woods wasn’t on the team. The best player golf has known has just one win – and that was in the last century – in seven editions of the game’s premier team event.
Perhaps the most important element of that is “team” – one’s never had the impression that Woods was remotely invested in this format. However, some runs as a vice-captain fetching and carrying the sandwiches seems to have cured him of that, and naturally he plans on correcting his sorry record this week in Paris.
“It certainly is not something that, looking back on my entire Ryder Cup career, I have really enjoyed and I’ve really liked seeing.
“I’ve played a lot of matches. Of those seven previous Ryder Cups, I’ve sat out one session, and that was the last session at Medinah. Otherwise, I’ve played every single match.
“We haven’t done well. We won in 2008, but I had reconstructive knee surgery after the U.S. Open and didn’t play. And I was a vice captain in 2016, but it’s different being a player.
“I haven’t won as a player since 1999 and the US squad hasn’t won on foreign soil for 25 years, so hopefully we can change that.”
Woods has no question why Europe has had the mob hand on the US in recent years in this event, however – the fortunes on the 18th hole.
“Jack (Nicklaus) says it’s plain and simple: who wins the 18th hole?” he said. “Those were the matches that swing, and these little half-points to point swings are enormous over the course of the entire Cup.
“The teams I’ve been a part of in the President’s Cup, we’ve handled the 18th hole well.
“The blowouts that we received in The Ryder Cup, we didn’t play the 18th hole well. The matches are very tight, and usually who plays the last hole well determines the Cup.”
He and Jack are absolutely right, of course. In the famous blowout at Oakland Hills in 2004 Bernhard Langer’s Europe won eight and a half points of the 11 matches that went to the 18th hole – if four those games had gone the way of Hal Sutton’s team and they’d edged the halved game, the USA would have won.
Even more glaringly, in the Miracle at Medinah in 2012 Europe won nine and a half points from the 12 matches that went up the final hole. Just one more going the US team’s way, they win.
In any case even here at this great event, many wanted to talk about Tiger’s victory in Atlanta, and clearly he did too.
His one regret is that “people don’t clap now because they’ve got a cellphone in their hand”. But he did add it was “a big deal” to have so much attention on golf again.
“For us to be able to promote golf like that, and for me the experience a scene like we had on 18 with the people running behind us and getting excited, that’s a big deal,” he said.
“I’m trying to return all the text messages I’ve got, but I’m still well north of 150, so I’ve got to get going on that. I’ll have time to soak it all up and watch it post-Ryder cup.”
The revelation that much more than 150 people have Tiger’s mobile number was somewhat startling, but so was his little jibe that followed.
“There’s been a lot of you who have supported me, you know, through a lot of the years, and many have doubted that I’d play golf again, and win again,” he said. “So I want to say thank you to all the people that have supported me.”
No problem, Tiger, as the group that doubted whether you’d play golf or win again is a very large one, including, if his recent public proclamations are correct, someone called Tiger Woods.