Europeans best beware: Tiger is still on the prowl
Ahead of a vital Ryder Cup for America, Montgomerie says 14-time major winner can turn up pressure
IT COULD be a rather baffling scene at Hazeltine next week. Thousands of spectators will have forked out good money to take in the hoopla of the 41st Ryder Cup and will likely spend a good chunk of that time watching Tiger Woods watching golf.
The 14-time major winner hasn’t been seen much since a year past August, as he continues his rehabilitation from various surgical prods and pokes to his dodgy back, but he will be very much in the spotlight in Minnesota as one of Davis Love III’s vice captains on Team USA.
The whole thing certainly conjures up some delightful imagery. The prospect of Woods beetling about in a buggy, busying himself with a variety of housekeeping chores and scurrying around the team room in a frightful haste making sure that Jordan Spieth’s polo shirt has been nicely pressed while picking up Rickie Fowler’s damp towel is a notion as mouth-wateringly delicious as a plate of sizzling bangers.
There is a serious side to the Woods factor, of course. He may not be hitting any shots, but the Tiger could yet produce a twist in the Ryder Cup tale. The mind games have already started. Lee Westwood has suggested Woods could have an “adverse” effect on Team USA while Paul Azinger, the former US skipper, responded by suggesting such comments could motivate the Americans. It’s all part of the pre-match parrying and jousting.
Colin Montgomerie, who was a talismanic figure for Europe in his pomp and never lost a singles match in eight appearances in the transatlantic tussle, knows what potential impact the lurking presence of Woods could have in the psychological nip-and-tuck of this contest that can muddle with the head.
“Tiger will be there to put pressure on,” suggested Montgomerie. “It is a wise move of Davis and all credit to Tiger for stepping up to the plate and saying, ‘yes, I am not playing but I will be there. I want to support America’.
“Having him on the tee is different and it will be difficult for our rookies when he is standing there. You know Tiger is there, you know he is well up for it, the crowd will be there chanting Tiger’s name. That is an added incentive for America. If I had had someone of that stature for my first game – if Jack Nicklaus had been standing there on the first tee or Arnold Palmer – my God, you would feel it. And Tiger will be used as much as possible to be that way. It was a bit of a coup to get Tiger involved.
“In years before, perhaps the Ryder Cup wasn’t as important as it is now to Tiger but I think it is good for him to be seen to be in a supporting role for the first time ever. I think it is one-up for America to have him on those tees.”
From those one-sided days of yore when the biennial bout could have
LOOMING PRESENCE: Tiger Woods will be part of the US backroom team at next week’s Ryder Cup.