Tiger Woods' comeback is talk of Ryder Cup, but Europe is ready for U.S. challenge
PARIS — Tiger Woods is in the house. You could tell Tuesday by the crowded press interview room for his assigned time. Not even the captains drew a throng like this.
His Tour Championship romp Sunday has been a wind gust through the sport, and the huge TV ratings suggest a phenomenon reborn.
"Are they good?” he asked Tuesday. "Sorry, I’ve been a little bit busy, so I haven’t looked."
Well, yeah. Up 200 percent from the same event last year; a sure mark of reheated Tigermania. But what does it mean for the Ryder Cup?
That’s the pressing question now, for an American team that yearns so badly to end 25 years of defeat in Ryder Cups played on European turf. Sunday was remarkable for Woods, and a landmark day in the sport. From being ranked 1,199th in the world to the center of the golf universe again.
But now there is much work to do.
"Being a guy with his status and that number of wins, he can flip the page and turn his attention to this week," Jim Furyk was saying. And so it would seem, for Woods was talking Tuesday like the moment in Atlanta had been put in a treasure chest.
Yes, it was a grand to have that Sunday feeling again, against many opponents who were only kids in his dominating glory days.
"I think when my game is there, I feel like I’ve always been a tough person to beat. They have jokingly been saying that, 'We want to go against you.' All right, here you go. We had a run at it."
And yes, he’s been trying to answer all the congratulatory texts, but still has many to go. "Well north of 150," he said.
But this is the Ryder Cup, and he understands what that means. Sunday is old news. "I haven’t really had time to soak it in," he said. "I will, post-Ryder Cup. I’ll take a look back and reflect on it."
Now he has to try to beat Europe in Europe, and he should understand as well as anyone how tricky that can be. He’s come over four times with American teams, and lost all four. Matter of fact, his teams are 1-6, home and away, and his personal match record is an un-legendary 13-17-3. "That’s not something that I have really enjoyed," he said Tuesday.
Savoring the meaning of the Tour Championship, then, will have to wait. And the guys he will be up against this weekend? For the Europeans, the aura of Tiger Woods 2.0 is a mixed bag. Listen to captain Thomas Bjorn, for instance.
"Anytime he does anything great, that’s a story, and that’s where we want to see him. We want to see him at the top of the game. He does so much for the game of golf. Watching that, I thought it was brilliant to watch."
"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. It’s the whole team that we are up against."
Here’s Tommy Fleetwood, who was so moved by Woods on Sunday he tweeted out that "We’ve just witnessed the greatest comeback of all time!" By Tuesday, two days had sobered that a tad. "I might have got carried away in the moment a little bit, but I think it’s up there, definitely. You’re watching something very, very special."
"That was Sunday. This week’s this week. I think it makes no difference to us at all. Tiger’s been playing great for a while. It wasn’t a shock to anybody that he won, so it’s not like he came out of the blue and all of a sudden, Tiger’s won and we’re worrying about that. There’s 12 of us playing, and we’ll all concentrate on what we’re doing.
"I really did appreciate the moment, but it’s gone now. I’ve got it on video and that will do. I’ll watch it again sometimes, but not this week."
Or Ian Poulter. He’s had to recover himself from some physical challenges in recent years, and the long road to his second wind has been helped by watching Woods. "I looked back to see where he’d been," Poulter said. "It’s quite inspirational to see how he’s he come back as good as he’s come back."
Poulter has been a Team Europe giant with his 12-4-2 Ryder Cup record – eat your heart out, Tiger – and is one of the men the Americans have most wanted to beat. "It’s a daunting position to be in, to know that everyone really wants to take you down," he said. "But quite frankly, I want to take them down just as much. That’s why this week is so special."
That would include wanting to take down Woods.
Francesco Molinari halved with Woods in a tense match in 2012, when the U.S. was blowing a four-point lead in Ryder Cup singles. He also won the British Open this summer, holding his composure through a demanding situation – paired with a resurgent Woods on Sunday.
"You know with him being in contention in a major, it’s going to be noisy and it’s going to be a lot of people,” he said of his feelings that day. “I quickly managed to think, 'I really don’t care. I’m here to do a job, and they can’t really influence how I do my job.'
"For me that’s going to be the same this week. Obviously the crowd is going to be on our side, but I think each one of us needs to really focus on the job in hand."
Tiger Woods is here, amazing victory in hand and the memories of past Ryder Cup frustrations on his mind. The Europeans sense his presence, from gallery to team room. Really, could a Ryder Cup ask for a better promo?