A few weeks ago Presidents Cup captain Fred Couples decided to take the suspense out of one of his captain’s choices for the upcoming Presidents Cup; he chose to shock the world and select former world no.1 (current #49) Tiger Woods. OK, so maybe his decision didn’t shock the world, or really anyone. But there is reason to question Couples’ logic in selecting the struggling golf legend when there is so much young American talent on the PGA Tour.
Since Woods’ now infamous car crash and infidelity scandal, he has been a shell of his former self on the golf course. Other than good showings in the Masters the last two years and a strong US Open at Pebble Beach in 2010, Woods’ game hasn’t been up to the standards we have come to expect over the last 15 years. His drives are all over the map, his distance control is average at best and his short game has not been even close to the levels it was at before the accident. Woods used to be able to almost will the ball in the hole even while he was playing poorly, but that is no longer the case.
Picking players for a team golf event is tricky business; do you go with experience, youth, competitive fire or the player with the hot hand? In my opinion, experience cannot be overvalued, and is one of the main reasons Couples selected Tiger for the event. Despite Woods’ shaky game as of late, he has an impeccable record at the Presidents Cup, including an undefeated record in 2009.
In my opinion, Couples selected Woods for the following reasons:
1) Buzz/Ratings: Whether you love him or hate him, Woods moves the needle. The average golf fan is much more likely to watch an event with Tiger in the mix. Just turn on sports center during a tournament he is playing in and they give updates on his every move. Selecting Woods guarantees the event will be huge rather than an afterthought placed in the middle of football season.
2) Injury: Woods has been injured for much of the last five years. And according to him, he is now healthy and walking with no pain. This should mean he has been able to practice (in his backyard, nonetheless) at the levels he knows he needs to get in competitive shape. Woods has been going through a swing change the last year or so, and he has always gone through slumps during these changes. Whether or not this current change will make him better remains to be seen, but it is hard to doubt a guy with over 70 tournament wins. Speaking of which….
3) History: Woods is a living golf legend. To most, he has already taken his place as the second best player to ever live, behind Jack Nicklaus (unless he breaks 18 majors). To not put him on the team is an extremely risky move. If the United States lost, people would say he should have picked Tiger. But picking him has no real downside, because Couples always have the excuse that he earned his spot based on 15 years of events. Over 70 tournament wins should guarantee you a spot on the team, and Couples knows that.
4) Match Play: With the Presidents Cup being based on team and individual match play, Tiger is a good person to have on the team. This is a guy that won 3 U.S. Junior Amateurs in a row followed by 3 U.S. Amateurs. In fact, he even played pretty well at the 2010 Ryder Cup, absolutely smashing Francesco Molinari in his singles match. Match play gets Tiger fired up, and you can bet there will be extra motivation to play well considering the state of his game.
5) They are friends: Woods and Couples are friends, and I believe Couples trusts Tiger when he says he will show up ready to play. Woods added the Frys.com open and scheduled himself for the Australian Open, so he won’t be going into the event completely cold. Couples even enlisted Michael Jordan to be a special aide to the team. If you don’t know, Woods and Jordan are good friends, and this move was clearly driven to help make Tiger feel even more comfortable.
Nobody knows how Tiger will play in Australia, but choosing him for the Presidents Cup was really a no brainer for Couples. Not choosing him would have been a huge story, and people are excited to see him play. We will see if the pick pays off shortly.