Head Of States?
Tiger Woods' individual brilliance is unquestioned, but his record in team events raises doubts about him being a successful American Ryder Cup captain
As soon as word got out that Tiger Woods had said that he'd like to be captain of the U.S. Ryder Cup team some day, the knees started jerking with reaction. And as with everything involving Tiger, the pendulum of response swings wide. In my view, the best way to look forward is to look back.
On No. 1 against each of his six opponents at the 1996 U.S. Amateur, where he won his third consecutive title, Tiger would move to the back left corner of the tee box, turn his back on his opponent and go into a calming, meditative trance.
It's one of the most intimidating moments I have ever seen in all of sports. Sort of golf's version of the New Zealand All Blacks doing the Maori haka war dance before a rugby match.
Once at the Masters, and I'm guessing this was in the early 2000s when Woods was in full Tiger mode, he was walking through the roped-off area behind the clubhouse toward the first tee at Augusta National when his mother, Tida, shouted to him. He never heard her. He was in the cone of silence, staring straight ahead.
And when The Scandal unfolded and people asked me if I was surprised my answer was, in all truthfulness, that the last time I had run into Tiger off the golf course was in a restaurant in Dublin, Ohio, in 1998. He is a very private, self-contained man.
Perhaps that explains why his Ryder Cup record in the team formats -- foursomes and four-balls -- is a dreadful 9-16-1, while his singles mark is a solid 4-1-2. Tiger Woods playing with a partner is like asking Maria Callas to sing an aria from Madame Butterfly with the Jordanaires as back-up singers. Tiger is all about arias.
Let's look back at another event. In 2004, in what was a coaching move that made James Buchanan's presidency look brilliant -- Europe won 18½ to 9½ -- U.S. Captain Hal Sutton paired Woods and Phil Mickelson not once but twice, both with disastrous results.
In the Friday morning four-ball, the Americans lost to Colin Montgomerie and Padraig Harrington 2 and 1. Then in foursomes that afternoon, Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood won No. 18 for a 1-up win after Lefty hit a wild drive on the last hole and Tiger made no effort to disguise his disgust.
Through my eyes, it appeared as if Mickelson tried to make the silly pairing of less-than-friends work, but that Woods had no interest in embracing the situation. His body language was X-rated all day.
So that's my knee-jerk reaction. Tiger, to me, seems to be all about Tiger and in my mind that makes him a sketchy teammate, let alone a team leader. I thought his apology to the U.S. rookies for his poor record in this year's Ryder Cup was odd and self-serving. It was truly a team loss, especially during the Sunday collapse.
Geniuses are not always great leaders. They see the game and play the game on such a different level that they don't fully understand the struggles of the mere mortals. As a baseball manager, Ted Williams struggled to understand why everyone couldn't hit like he did.