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Woods the wag?

  • Rob Hodgetts - BBC Sport golf writer
  • 12 Sep 06, 06:09 PM

rob_hodgetts55x55.jpg LONDON - Tiger Woods amuses me. He’s desperate to have us believe he has transformed from ultimate solo sportsman to the beating heart of the US Ryder Cup team.

Woods says he is keen to finally take on a leadership role at the K Club.

But he’s been the best player in the world for nigh on a thousand years, and yet only now does he decide to come in from the cold and embrace the team ethic of the competition.

Woods' career, you see, is all about creating a legacy, from the umpteen PGA Tour records he’s broken, to beating Jack Nicklaus’ haul of 18 majors.

And he has realised that being remembered as a great Ryder Cup man will also look good on his CV. Up to now, of course, he has been seen as a peripheral figure, labelled as an individual, and an awkward one to pair up at that.

But this year the team dynamic will be different, according to Woods.

"As far as our team coming together it's very interesting that actually it's a younger team. I believe I'm still the youngest... most of the guys are between 30 and 40 where most years we have a sprinkling of maybe three or four guys in their 40s," he said.

"Brett (Wetterich) might be the oldest of the four rookies at 33. I think we can all relate to each other being so much the same age.”

Quite what this 30-year-old 12-time major-winning global sporting icon and all-round phenomenon has in common with the likes of America’s four rookies Brett Wetterich, Zach Johnson, JJ Henry and Vaughan Taylor (not even household names in their own households), is anyone’s guess.

But I love the idea of Woods portraying himself as an average Joe.

When the Americans visited the K Club last month, Woods said he was looking forward to “having a few beers and hanging out with the guys”. Just how did they "hang out" do you think? Around the fruit machine? Was Phil Mickelson involved?

I'm also intrigued about the conversation when Woods took the four freshmen – The Wettmeister, ZJ (like sea-jay), Tails and Jeej - out to dinner recently. (If I was them, I would have chosen the most expensive thing on the menu. And ordered a second bottle of wine).

"We had a great time,” said Woods. “We had some nice steak and we basically just talked about my experiences in the cup, what to expect...things you have to be ready for and also to reiterate to these guys that they have earned their place on the team."

Now, I obviously don’t know Woods from Adam (and I don’t know him that well) but he is arguably the most famous single-minded, driven individual athlete of our time.

In fact, some boffins recently did some research and worked out that Woods’ presence at the World Match Play, the Ryder Cup and the WGC event in Hertfordshire the week after would pull in more than £150m through spectators, merchandise, hospitality, tourism, sponsorship, radio and TV coverage.

"The size and reach of the Tiger economy is remarkable,” said Professor Cannon, Dean of Business at the University of Buckingham,

"We estimate the total value on the core golf economy to be as high as £170m. Drawing these figures together gives an astonishing picture not only of the impact of a single, outstanding sportsman but of the growing power and influence of sport and sporting celebrity."

So I’m really having trouble picturing him as the kind of guy comfortable swigging out of a warm beer can at the back of the bus and leading the singing.

Woods might inspire his team on the golf course, but my money is on Chris DiMarco kicking off the nightly charades at the K Club.

Comments   Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 09:28 PM on 12 Sep 2006,
  • Vaughan Jones wrote:


I like your forthright views about Tiger Woods but I think we have noticed a distinct change in Tigers persona since his father died. I am not suggesting he is going on a charm offensive but maybe he realises that life is too short to be classed as a cold hearted super golfer. I think we should be embracing Tigers mentality of team ethic and if the story was true about him having dinner with the younger guys, it is rather unique for someone in his position to do something like that. I think the days of the "aloof Tiger" are long gone.

  • 2.
  • At 09:46 PM on 12 Sep 2006,
  • Geoff Pearce wrote:

Montgomerie is clearly practicing to be captain at some future point. He has been obsessed with Woods for years and it still seems that he believes if Woods is playing we (or perhaps, Montgomerie) can only come second. Not true. Woods can be beaten, ask David Howell. Montgomerie should know that team games aren't won by beating one player in a different event!

  • 3.
  • At 10:30 PM on 12 Sep 2006,
  • Alex Robertson wrote:

Being from the UK I find this hard to say but I entirely disagree with you Rob. Unfortunately for Europe they have come across a Tiger Woods in some form who is now prepared to be a team player - a very scary thought.

Over recent years vibes from the tour have been that Tiger has now matured into a very respectful golfer who takes the time to talk to his fellow competitors outside of the playing arena. Plus when it comes down to it - surely you want somebody entirely focused on the golf shot ahead of them giving the hoopla surrounding the Ryder Cup. Given his experiences who is a better teacher and leader?

And no offence, I'm not sure singing and drinking beer from the back of the bus is a modern professional sportsman. Maybe Bjorn's comments of being told about his non-selection in a bar says something?

  • 4.
  • At 12:48 AM on 13 Sep 2006,
  • Frank N. Stein wrote:

Tiger is certainly the most spectacular golfer ever, but that doesn't mean the Americans deserves the Ryder Cup! There won't be any free drop or playoff at the Ryder Cup.

The winning team will be composed of players who will have demonstrated a balance of maturity, control and respect during the whole competition, not just played the most spectacular shots.

And yes, Ryder Cup experience will be an important wild card, even the winning card!

  • 5.
  • At 09:28 AM on 13 Sep 2006,
  • George wrote:

It is interesting to see that so much importance has been put on the performance of Woods. What people seem to forget about the cup is the distinct format. Hypothetically if there was singles each afternoon, I am sure Woods record would be much better. Having played Foursomes golf at international level I know it is a totally different game.

The relationship you have with, and personality of your partner, are as important as the talents of the opponents. I think the Americans attitude, of playing Tiger in the first Group, to gain the first point on the board has failed miserably. You only have to look at how Jacklin played Seve, nearly always with a Rookie, in order to inspire them. Thus making him just mingle in with the rest of the Team.

  • 6.
  • At 09:31 AM on 13 Sep 2006,
  • Mike Read wrote:


Just a minute here, I can understand your inference that Tiger has suddenly become this team player, one of the lads etc, I've heard his interviews also. I thought at the time - "Good on yer Tiger" because it sounded to me as if he was angling for future weekends away with the lads gambling in Vegas or fishing in the Virgin Islands. But it cannot be so because they have WAGS! They all have uniformed WAGS watching every move they make from the practice putting green first thing to the early lights out with a cup of cocoa.

So why is Tiger embracing the team game, there must be a reason, I thought I had it, but it must be something else and it's not to do with golf!

  • 7.
  • At 09:41 AM on 13 Sep 2006,
  • Tomos Watkins wrote:

Tiger is widely reported by those who know him well as being one of the funniest guys on tour. He is like an overgrown 'frat-boy' playing practical jokes, laughing, telling gags all the time.... until he hits the course. That's when Tiger Woods comes out. It is a testament to his immense dedication and single mindedness that he is able to conceal this split personality so well.

Occasionally we see glimpses of his 'sense of humour', indeed some of his comments, like after The Masters this year have sometimes shown a little too much locker-room-towel-snapping style humour.

When he says he's really looking forward to having a few beers with the guys, I believe him. Global megastars like Woods, Beckham, Jordan etc. along with all the trappings of fame and fortune comes a total lack of privacy. To long to have a normal night, hanging out talking golf, telling jokes and having a few beers seems totally reasonable to me.

The American Team has been slated rightfully in the past for acting like a group of individuals and not a team. This is the prime reason why they've lost the last couple of Ryder Cups, but when they try to bond, act like a real team and spend some social time together, we seem to feel the need to mock them for it.

Let's wait to mock them until after we humilliate them on the golf course, then we can really let rip!

  • 8.
  • At 09:51 AM on 13 Sep 2006,
  • Scott B wrote:

So Tom Lehman needs Tiger to shine? Hardly revelation of the century. But what intrigues me is the way Lehman has openly re-stated his thinking on pairing Woods with Furyk.

Sure they have a good record at the last Presidents Cup. But the overall objective here is for the Americans to win 14.5 points to win back the Cup, not just ensure that Tiger improves his Cup average. Aand when was the last time you heard a captain being so open about a potential pairing. Not since the days when the US rowed across the Atlantic on a Thursday, picked their partners themselves and still handed out a drubbing to GB and Ireland.

Lehman is far too cute to be giving away all his thinking to Ian Woosnam. He may well want to pair Woods and Furyk at some stage, maybe even first up on Friday. But with four rookies on the team, all of whom need to get "wet" before the Sunday Singles, Lehman can't afford the sheer indulgence of having the World Numbers one and two watching each others backs for two days.

Tiger gelled very well with rookie Chris Riley at Oakland Hills, and at least for the cameras JJ Henry was included in the Woods / Furyk group at the K Club love in recently. Plus Furyk is one of the senior guys as well - Lehman needs him to get out on his own and make some points.

Believe me, Tiger cares far more about playing on a winning team than improving his own cup record. Still, one thing hasn't changed. If we as Europeans are still obsessed with stopping Woods at all costs, then we still treat ourselves as inferior underdogs, even if the bookies don't.

  • 9.
  • At 10:15 AM on 13 Sep 2006,
  • Luke Jeffrey wrote:

No one can doubt Tiger's focus when it comes to individual glory & in my opinion (for what it's worth) I would of dearly loved John Daly to partner Tiger.

Obviously not going to happen this time around but the dynamics of their relationship would have Tiger coasting down the fairways instead of stalking tight jawed with an overawed/uncomfortable/unworthy partner as seems to happen most times. The wild thing would add so much to the whole event & considering the US "rookies" form guides of late he could of been an inspired choice.

  • 10.
  • At 10:19 AM on 13 Sep 2006,
  • Ken wrote:

I think that it's a common mistake to confuse Woods the golfer and Woods the person. The completely focused, machine like persona that we see on the golf course is just that, a persona. One that he adopts to cope with the pressure and intensity of winning golf tournaments; and who can argue with its success?

Woods is a very private person and I think that because people don't see him 'out and about' like other celebrities, that they have nothing to balance their perception.

As far as the Ryder cup is concerned, I do think it's a long way down Woods' priority list, but having said that, he's a fierce competitor who doesn't like to lose.

I think the fact that David Love didn't make the team is significant and Woods now feels that he can step up and assume a leadership role as one of the players with the most experience. I think in the past Woods felt that it would be disrespectful to the more senior players to assume that role just because he was the world number one.

  • 11.
  • At 10:25 AM on 13 Sep 2006,
  • Chris Tribe wrote:

A very entertaining piece, Rob. Tiger's individualism has been talked about for years, and of course it's unlikely he'd have won so much if he hadn't been that way. Accepted modern-day wisdom about preparation, fitness and psychology appears to support him in that too.

But as much as that's all well and good, I personally think the sporting public relate more easily to the old school such as Woosie, Sam and Jiminez with their flair for enjoying themselves as well as taking the sport seriously.

One wonders if Tiger ever really truly lets his hair down - and if so, is it ever in the company of fellow pro's?

Personally I think the US team has made a big point of publicising the new-found "togetherness" of their Ryder Cup team - K Club visits, Tiger & his dinner etc., purely because they have taken so much flak in the past for not completely embracing the team ethic. I'm not sure I'm convinced, either. Good Captaincy & team mangement or merely spin & PR?

What really matters is on the course, and only then will we see if anything is significantly different. Incorporating the worlds best individual golfer succesfully into one of the most passionate team events in sport has peviously been quite difficult for the US. If this continues, it will be a genuine boost to European hopes.... a fascinating contest is in prospect.

  • 12.
  • At 10:52 AM on 13 Sep 2006,
  • Iain wrote:

This year is certainly interesting. With the Europeans going for a 3rd consecutive victory and playing at home you would think everything was in our favour. Im not sure though. The course was designed by an American (Arnold Palmer I think) and this could play into American hands.

However, the Americans are loaded with rookies which will see them go one of two ways. They will thrive under the unique pressure and play their best golf OR they will buckle under the weight of American expectation. Who knows?

For Europe to win though we need big performances from our big players (and Im not talking waistlines)!!

Back to the Blog! Tiger Woods is undoubtedly in great form at the moment but how will this transform to the Ryder Cup? He is so focused and driven I think he focuses on his own game and doesnt have time for others and/or team distraction. I wouldnt pair him with a rookie because of this.

Undoubtedly the best golfer in the World but the best team player? I dont think so.

  • 13.
  • At 11:09 AM on 13 Sep 2006,
  • Darren Russell wrote:

Tiger Woods 'amuses' you Rob?
That comment does you no credit at all..
I think if you were to go back and look at the tapes of previous cups you would find that Tiger nearly always played to a high standard (no matter the partner) and I certainly dont recall him ever ignoring or being anything less than encouraging to all of them (yes even Phil).
He has simply come up against opponents (especially in doubles) who have played at the very top of their game and when our guys play at the top of their game and hole putts he's going to find himself in a real dogfight.
What's more I think he has always handled himself well in the face of such defeats, this doesnt mean that he doesnt want to win as much as normal it just means that he has got class and understands that he cant win every time he plays against the other best players in the world.
Even with the superb Furyk as his partner I think you'll find that he doesnt win every game this time as well. I am not by any means Tiger's greatest fan and in fact I hope he wins zero points this time but feel that some of the points you make here Rob are grossly unfair. "I'm having trouble seeing him as the kind of guy comfortable swigging beer at the back of the bus... Give us and him a break.

  • 14.
  • At 12:14 PM on 13 Sep 2006,
  • Miles Dowsett wrote:

I think the perception that Tiger is not a team player due to his poor Ryder Cup record is a myth, or at least warped view.

Tiger is as amicable and indeed as humble as they come. I obviously don't know the guy, but from what I do know from what other professionals say, and how he comes across in interviews leads me to believe he is as warm and friendly as any other player.

I think Tiger's record is poor simply because he has such an aura about him; his playing partners simply feel unable to perfom to due to his immense presence. You only have to see how difficult it is for a player playing with him on Sunday afternoon in a 72 hole tournament to perform to see it could be an issue.

  • 15.
  • At 03:44 PM on 13 Sep 2006,
  • Pete Kenny wrote:

Quite agree with your comments on TW however my feelings tell me that because Tom Lehman needs to make these public announcements of re-envigoured team spirit and that Tiger has had to take the four rookies under his wing says to me that something is seriously wrong with the US team.
Team spirit comes from within the heart of the team and not from the captain instructing his players to attend 'bonding' days.
I think that we will see another European victory based solely on the fact that the Europeans treat the Ryder Cup as a team event whereas the US team just tell us that they do.

  • 16.
  • At 03:49 PM on 13 Sep 2006,
  • Stuart Heeps wrote:

Not quite sure what Alex Robertson is implying with his words "And no offence, I'm not sure singing and drinking beer from the back of the bus is a modern professional sportsman. Maybe Bjorn's comments of being told about his non-selection in a bar says something?"

I'm sorry, but over recent years, the team-spirit that has galvanised the European Team has undeniably come from "the bar"......the fact that the Europeans can get together as a team over a few beers and enjoy each others company has given us the edge over the Americans in recent times.
Indeed, the only time that Americans seem to have pulled together as a unit was at Kiawah Island off the back of the Gulf War........I'm damned sure there will be a bit of singing and drinking beer from the Europeans, just as I'm damned sure we will give the Americans yet another pasting...

  • 17.
  • At 05:44 PM on 13 Sep 2006,
  • Rob H - BBC Sport wrote:

Hi all,

I'm enjoying the debate on this one and it will be fascinating to see how the whole team spirit thing pans out on both sides.

I take the points of Miles, Ken and Tomos - I have heard this about Woods' off-course persona.

Clearly, just because you're a driven sportsman doesn't mean you can't have fun when you come off the pitch.

But what makes Woods such an enigma is that he's not just any old highly motivated athlete. He's potentially one of the greatest ever.

Which I suppose is why it's difficult to understand how someone so focused and single-minded can just switch it on and off. Which only makes him even more impressive.

But Darren, I reserve my right to be amused by him.

I've just heard Woods say in a Sky TV feature about the recent US trip to the K Club, that the Americans "tipped a few back".

I'm sure they did. Maybe Tiger was hilarious. All I'm saying is, this sort of language doesn't sit with the public persona, which is all we have to go on. So I can't picture it.

With this phoney war still in full swing, we're all searching for a little clue here, or a sign there.

The Americans certainly seem up for it and there's no doubt the Europeans will unite in the cause once they get to Ireland.

Ultimately, though, it's not a PR contest, it's who is better at golf.

But until that starts I'll be watching the body language very closely from Monday at the K Club and I'll report back my findings.

Your round Tiger?

  • 18.
  • At 09:03 AM on 14 Sep 2006,
  • John Pilka wrote:

I go to Ireland every year in September (usually around Ryder cup time)

The one thing that is never certain is the weather - I have played in glorious sunshine and shirtsleeves some years and also, like last year in howling torrential wind and rain -for all 5 days of my visit!

The weather, I think could play a big part in the outcome and could swing things in the Europeans favour.

  • 19.
  • At 11:24 PM on 14 Sep 2006,
  • Kathleen wrote:

It's easy to see why the Euros get so hyped up over the Ryder Cup. It's the only tournament they actually stand a chance of winning! :o)

And it's interesting that the Europeans on this blog are lecturing the Americans about teamwork. Aren't you lot the ones who have spent thousands of years trying to rid this planet of each other?

  • 20.
  • At 07:41 PM on 16 Sep 2006,
  • LES JONES wrote:

If you feel so positive about Tiger having changed his spots then I'm afraid you have been led up the garden path my friend.

Tiger is as Tiger was, always for himself. Along with Tom Lehman (The man of God) team players is an ethic they do not understand. I believe come Sunday evening we will have witnessed sour comments recrimination and Sour supporters. Oh what short memories some of us have.

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