Tiger Woods winning adds to Ryder Cup buzz

Tiger Woods winning adds to Ryder Cup buzz
September 27
05:00 2018

By Doug Ferguson, AP Golf Writer

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France — Already the most intense competition in golf, the Ryder Cup doesn’t need help to boost the excitement.

Tiger Woods managed to take it to another level.

On Sunday, Sept. 23, he looked like the Woods of old by leading the final 36 holes of the Tour Championship, not letting anyone near him until it was too late, a vintage performance made all the more remarkable by four back surgeries and a future that looked bleak only a year ago.

Woods was a vice captain at the Presidents Cup a year ago this week and said he envisioned a scenario where he never returned to competition. One PGA Tour event into his return, Jim Furyk selected him as a vice captain for the Ryder Cup.

And then he picked him for the team. And then Woods won for the first time in more than five years.

“It’s obviously a nice buzz for our team,” Furyk said Monday, a few hours after the American charter plane landed in Paris. The entire U.S. team was on a charter that arrived in Paris at about 12:45 p.m.

Monday was as much a time to reflect on Woods as it was to rest up for a busy week at Le Golf National.

“I spent 25 years playing professional golf with Tiger Woods on the scene, and any time he does anything great, that’s a story. And that’s where we want to see him,” said European captain Thomas Bjorn, the only player to be paired with Woods over 72 holes and beat him. That was in Dubai in 2001.

“He does so much for the game of golf,” Bjorn said. “Watching that last night, I thought it was brilliant. It was great for the greater aspect of the game.”

The television ratings show as much.

NBC Sports Group said the overnight rating from the Tour Championship was 5.21, the highest-rated telecast in the 12-year history of the FedEx Cup playoffs, which cover 48 events featuring some of the strongest fields of the year.

That was the highest rating of the year this side of the majors, and the highest for the Tour Championship dating to 2000.

“In the end, whatever it is these 24 guys are going to do this week, the game of golf needs that boost of somebody like him that transcends the game to the masses,” Bjorn said. “So for everyone in golf, it’s brilliant.”

Now that Woods is back on his game, the hope for Furyk and the U.S. team is that he’s not back to Ryder Cup form.

For all that he has achieved – 80 victories on the PGA Tour, 14 majors, No. 1 in the world for 683 weeks – he has a 13-17-3 record in Ryder Cup matches, and he has played on only one winning team since his first one in 1997.

“We don’t fear anyone because we’ve played against them so many times before individually,” Bjorn said. “But we respect our opponents and know what we are up against. What stands on the other side we know is one of the strongest American teams of all time. … We do what we do as a European team, and then we go out and take that on the golf course, and that’s all 12 Americans. It’s not one individual.”

Europe has done it well over the years.

The Americans have not won the Ryder Cup away from home since 1993, a drought Furyk has been hearing about since he was appointed captain in January 2017. The Americans have confidence from winning big at Hazeltine two years ago – Woods was a vice captain that week – and from a team that boasts nine major champions.

That makes them favorites on paper.

On Sunday, it was a comeback not even Tiger Woods saw coming a year ago.

A chaotic celebration that golf hasn’t seen even in the best of times.

Woods delivered the perfect ending to his amazing return from four back surgeries with a performance that felt like the old days. He left the competition feeling hopeless as he built a five-shot lead early and hung on to win the Tour Championship.

Woods raised both arms over his head after he tapped in for par and a 1-over 71 for a two-shot victory over Billy Horschel, the 80th victory of his PGA Tour career and his first in more than five years.

“It was a grind out there,” Woods said. “I loved every bit of it.”

It felt like a coronation coming down the 18th green after he hit his second shot to the par 5 safely in a bunker in front of the green. The crowd came through the ropes and walked behind him, just like that walk from the left side of the 18th fairway when he won the Masters in 1997, and when the enormous gallery of Chicago followed after him when he won the Western Open that summer.

They chased after any inch of grass they could find to watch the ending.

This felt just as big as a major, maybe better considering where Woods had been.

“I didn’t want to get run over,” Woods said with a laugh.

Only when he was on the green, the last one to putt after Rory McIlroy tapped in for birdie, did it start to sink in.

“All of a sudden it hit me that I was going to win the tournament. I started tearing up a little bit,” Woods said. “I can’t believe I pulled this off.”

He paused as his voice started to crack.

More roars.

Several players, from Zach Johnson to Rickie Fowler to Horschel, waited to greet him. It was Johnson who unveiled red shirts at the Ryder Cup two years ago in the team room that said, “Make Tiger Great Again.”

“They knew what I was struggling with,” Woods said. “It was special to see them.”

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