August 2008

By Jason Haviland

In much the same way that the USA mens Basketball team is trying to erase six years of international mediocrity on the hardwood, so too is the USA Ryder Cup team who has dropped the last three Ryder Cup Championships to the feisty Europeans. And if Justin Leonard doesn’t embark on one of the greatest comeback performances in Ryder Cup history and they lose in the memorable 1999 match-up at Brookline, it would be a streak of six straight losses against Europe that the U.S. would be trying to break.

The 2008 Ryder Cup team will consist of 12 U.S. Golfers -- eight automatic selections and four captain’s choices, which is an increase for two captain’s picks in prior competitions. Paul Azinger will have some tough choices in finalizing the 12 man roster.

Interestingly enough, one choice Azinger won’t have to make is how to pair and position Tiger Woods in the competition. Tiger’s season ending knee surgery will keep him out of this year’s competition. Drat! But it might not be as bad as you think. If you can point to one blemish on Tiger Woods impeccable golfing record, it is his play in the Ryder Cup. Tiger has only won three times in 10 tries (3-6-1) in alternate shot play and has a very average 10-13-2 record overall. His name is nowhere to be found in the Ryder Cup record book. So, the USA Ryder Cup team will have to press forward without Tiger and look for someone else to fill his shoes. Surely Rocco Mediate (Currently 12th) and Boo Weekley (Currently 7th) are two player could add some flair to the team and at least match Tiger’s sub .500 performances.

But why does Tiger perform so poorly at the Ryder Cup? Quite simply, because his is an individual athlete with a singular focus on individual performance and achievement. He can’t relate to this team concept when he has to treat Phil Mickelson and Stewart Cink with anything more than a professional courtesy. It’s just not in his DNA. When immersed in this team environment concept of the Ryder Cup, he loses that drive and singular focus that allows him to raise his game to another level when he’s playing in a major tournament – Tiger vs. the field. You’ll be hard pressed to find someone of stature in the golf world telling us that the team is better off without Tiger Woods. And I won’t even go that far, but I’m not all that worried about not having Tiger Woods on the team. Win or lose, I just don’t think Tiger would have made the difference, he’s just not that good of a Ryder Cup golfer.

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