Memorial Tournament

Muirfield Village Golf Club

The Loop

Tiger Wouldn't Want the Attention at Valhalla

As much as U.S. Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger hopes otherwise, Tiger Woods doesn't seem all that interested in serving as an inspirational resource when the Americans face the Europeans at Valhalla GC in September. Asked during a Monday teleconference if he might accept Azinger's offer to join the squad as an unofficial assistant captain, Woods gave a non-committal answer in a tone different from his replies to previous questions.

"Because of my procedure, I'm not on the team," Tiger said, referring to last week's knee surgery, which will sideline him for the rest of 2008, perhaps beyond. "It's about those 12 guys. It's not about me. I'm not part of that crew."

Such reluctance is understandable, and those who know Woods, Azinger included, could not be surprised by his response. For the same reason Tiger withheld information on his torn ACL and double stress fracture of his tibia until after the U.S. Open, it's difficult to imagine him hanging out with the Yanks in Kentucky. The distraction factor caused by his presence becomes too big a story, especially once the competition has begun.

No one is more aware of this glare than Woods. He has never been a rah-rah type of guy, and in the context of the emotionally charged Ryder Cup, his role as ceremonial icon would awkwardly counter his tendency to lead by example. No matter how vast his greatness becomes, he simply doesn't define himself on those terms. It's one thing to unleash a few fist-pumps after holing a big putt, another entirely to show up without your clubs and sit in a cart with a pair of pompoms.

In recent years, Tiger has become more conscientious about upstaging a tournament or another player. To say he has no ego would be ludicrous, but he doesn't woof or showboat at the expense of others. His celebrations are born of raw emotion, nothing rehearsed, and though he might change his mind about Valhalla, I don't see it happening.

Woods likes the attention, but it's the performance that drives him, not how others react to it.

--John Hawkins