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

The Herald - Herald Sport - - GOLF - NICK RODGER

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

Pic­ture: Getty Im­ages

LOOM­ING PRES­ENCE: Tiger Woods will be part of the US back­room team at next week’s Ry­der Cup.

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