At a few minutes after half-past three UK time, US Ryder Cup
captain Corey Pavin heartlessly destroyed what had long promised to be one of
the great sporting stories of the year: he decided to pick Tiger Woods for the
A few weeks ago Woods was playing appalling golf, the worst
of his career, so much so that the world began to wake up to two possibilities:
one, that he could fail to make the side automatically; and two, that he would
not receive a captain's pick should he fall short.
Sure enough, Woods failed to make the side on his play alone
as he finished 23rd at the US PGA Championship, but Pavin has saved him from
the ignominy of watching golf's wonderful team event on telly by selecting him
as one of his four wildcard choices.
And boy, is BM glad that Pavin did what he did.
As amusing as it would have been to see the great man left out
in the short term, it would have been awful come the actual Ryder Cup itself. Any
tournament has an added edge when Woods plays, and even the Ryder Cup - one of
sport's great spectacles - still basically needs the pulling power of the
world's most famous sportsman if it is to really capture the imagination.
And on top of everything else, there's absolutely no doubt
that Woods simply had to be picked for the team. His form might be poor, but
two top-five finishes in Majors this year (at the Masters and US Open) would be
regarded as a solid showing for most of the world's top 10, and he has pulled his socks up in the last couple of weeks with some solid golf.
Plus, Woods is still worthy of his spot as world number one. Although
it has been an atrocious year by his standards he is still absolutely brilliant
at golf. And though he didn't snag a top-eight spot in the US Ryder Cup
standings, he still finished 12th - despite only having played nine qualifying tournaments
in 2010, compared to a couple of dozen for most players trying to make the team.
No doubt it'll be a tough week for Tiger. Even when things have been going well for him he has become famous for hating the dinners and gladhanding that goes with Ryder Cup week;
chuck in a divorce, poor form and a hostile crowd and it's all set to be a
difficult few days in South Wales.
But all those factors surely make it even more likely that Woods
will be firing on all cylinders at Celtic Manor. The target golf challenge
presented by the 2010 Course is one that the US side will feel instantly
comfortable with, and even though Woods has an iffy Ryder Cup record it'd be the perfect arena in which to begin the next phase of his rehabilitation in the eyes
of the public.
Simply put, the great man has bounced back before - remember that
mid-career slump in the mid-noughties which he ended with that magical Masters win in
2005 (which included THAT chip-in), and he'll do it again sooner or later. BM's money is on it being sooner.
Whether his efforts will be enough to lead to victory a US team that includes
the unlikely figure of Jeff Overton will be another matter.
Then again, considering Colin Montgomerie's farcical
decision to pick the woefully out of form Padraig Harrington over 2010 high-flyer
and proven matchplay winner Paul Casey, it's more likely that the home team is
the one which will start the matches on the back foot...
- - - - -
The Ryder Cup has always been almost unique among golf
tournaments in that it generates a football-style atmosphere among the fans
(only the beer-drenched Phoenix Open comes close).
And the host city of Newport has taken the football parallel
one step further with news that a World Cup-style town centre 'fan zone' will
be set up in, er, downtown Newport - aka John Frost Square - to give fans a
place to gather together and watch the action on big screens.
It's a brave experiment, and with live music, crazy golf and
golf simulators on hand for those lulls in play it promises to be well worth a