In a year in which Tiger Woods has managed to do almost nothing right—did you realize that in seven events he was in the top 25 only once (and that after winning five times last year)?—his decision, announced yesterday, to take his name out of consideration for a Ryder Cup captain’s pick could not have been more right.
At the risk of sounding like a Tiger apologist, he deserves our thanks and appreciation, because his decision makes the most sense for all concerned.
For Tiger, it means staying away from the golf course, which was his doctors’ prescription. It would have been nice if his back problems were healed with surgery a few months back, but obviously they haven’t all been taken care of.
For US team captain Tom Watson, it’s a huge relief, removing Tiger from the equation and alleviating the need to play the “will he, won’t he; can he, can’t he” game between now and September 2 when the picks are announced. Much more interesting now are the chances of players like Brandt Snedeker (presently 20th in Ryder Cup points), Webb Simpson (15th), Keegan Bradley (13th), and Jason Dufner (10th), who is dealing with his own health issues. At least we’re talking about players who should be considered, not one who was ranked 70th in points after finishing 69th at Royal Liverpool, withdrawing at Firestone, and missing the cut at Valhalla.
Tiger’s selfless act also is good for the team. Because face it, Ryder Cup has never been his best event. In fact, I’ve been researching match records in preparing the Ryder Cup edition of HotLinks, our digital magazine, which will be out in a few weeks. Tiger’s Cup record is pretty lousy: He’s played in 33 total matches and lost 17 of them. He’s strongest in the singles, where he has 4 wins, 1 loss, and 2 halves, but he’s 4-8-1 in foursomes and 5-8-0 in four-balls. Two years ago at Medinah, he managed just half a point in four matches, halving his singles match against Francesco Molinari after the Cup had already been retained by Europe (his halve gave them the Cup outright). He’s also never established a chemistry with any partners: Remember the excitement about Woods pairing with his buddy Steve Stricker? In 2012, they went 0-3.
So, yeah, it’s good for the team, and give him credit for realizing this and stepping aside so someone else has a chance.
There’s been a lot of talk about Tiger’s rotten year and failing health marking the end of an era, the beginning of the end, a changing of the guard, call it what you will. That may be true, or maybe he’ll come back next year healthy and able to play golf the way we’re used to seeing. We’ll just have to wait and see.
So give him credit for that, too: By stepping away now and doing the right thing, he’s going to make us that much more anxious next year (like just before The Masters?) to see if the latest “new Tiger” shows any of the same stripes as the “old Tiger” that once generated so much excitement.