He hasn’t struck a competitive shot in 13 months, but is it possible Tiger Woods is ready to make a Ryder Cup shock?
Matt Kuchar made a curious insinuation last week.
The soon-to-be four-time Ryder Cup player dropped a hint with an enormously weighty anchor that maybe, just maybe, 40-year-old Tiger Woods will get US captain Davis Love III’s final selection this Sunday after the Tour Championship.
On the surface the idea seems extraordinary, insane, even. How could you possibly even consider a player riddled with injuries and sporting zero competitive sharpness, even if he is the greatest player of his era? We’ve known for some time that Woods will serve as a vice-captain in Love’s team next week in Minnesota, but as a player?
During the announcement that Kuchar, Rickie Fowler and J.B. Holmes comprised the first three of Love’s four captain’s picks, Kuchar suggested Woods was in the frame, even though it appears a choice between Bubba Watson, Jim Furyk, Ryan Moore, Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger and perhaps are few other peripheral options.
“I heard, even possibly, this is hearsay, but I heard maybe even Tiger Woods could potentially be a pick. That would be legend-ary, legendary,” Kuchar said.
“That’s just hearsay. It could strictly be rumour. But I mean, I know he’s playing Safeway [two weeks after the Ryder Cup]. Imagine Tiger Woods being a playing captain? Absolutely incredible. That last pick is going to be quite amazing. I don’t envy Davis’ position. So it’s a tough job. But gosh, imagine that? Tiger Woods playing for Team USA, being a captain? That would be incredible.”
Before dismissing the thought completely, think about what such a left-field selection would represent. Firstly, it more than suggests – it effectively guarantees – Tiger has been preparing and practising harder than followers of the sport realise. In 2010 he returned from his self-imposed exile at the Masters, so he knows how to move from complete inaction to golf’s warmest cauldron. But Augusta and all the majors are for personal glory; next week is for his country. If Tiger is a possible option – and that’s a sizeable if – his game would have to be in a state of superiority unlike we’ve seen from him in a comeback before.
We don’t know much about the latter part of Tiger’s rehab from a second microdisectomy surgery this time last year (Woods hasn’t struck a shot in competition since August 2015). There’s been the odd public appearance, tweet or website update but otherwise Woods has become the North Korea of world golf: something big’s going on there but we’re not quite sure what.
Has he been practising and playing more than he’s let on? Were those three chunked wedges into the water at his Quicken Loans National event’s media day in May just a ruse? Have the Europeans and, indeed, the entire golf world been thrown off the scent? Or is Kuchar just having a bit of fun, in his casual, joking, smiling assassin type of way?
Then you’ve got to consider what the Europeans would want. If you’re Darren Clarke and his dozen charges, would you want to go up against an American side with Tiger Woods in it? My guess is they would. My guess is they’d view it as a desperate ploy by an opposition side that’s lost eight of the past ten Ryder Cups and is looking to surprise or distract. I think the Euro players would view Tiger as being as ‘gettable’ as ever.
As Kuchar says, Woods is intending to be back for the opening event of the 2016/2017 PGA Tour season at the Safeway Open in California from October 13. That’s the safer bet, but even just the idea of a Ryder Cup return adds a heightened level of hype to an event that never needs it. Still … wouldn’t it be something?