Albany, Bahamas, 03 December 2019: If the American team needed a dress rehearsal for the Presidents Cup, this is as good as it gets. Eleven of the dozen men force is out at the Albany Golf Resort in the Hero World Challenge. Only Dustin Johnson is missing, after deciding to take an additional week to strengthen his knee. Tiger Woods is player and captain, and in the charged setting of the intercontinental battle, that is going to be more than a handful for the legendary golfer.
Woods is a Presidents Cup bully too. The champion golfer is 24-15-1 in eight appearances while he has losing record in the same number of Ryder Cups with 13 wins, 21 losses and 3 halves.
Hale Irwin remains the only other golfer to have played and captained a team in the competition between American and International teams, much younger in heritage compared to the Ryder Cup. Irwin did so in the inaugural edition of the tournament in 1994.
“I don’t want to say Tiger doesn’t have a good record but you look at his match-play record through the years and I think the other players, they really get up to play against Tiger, as well they should. He’s such a dominant player. He provides fodder for other players because of his record and how good he is. But as a captain he also can take his energy and wisdom and skills and apply it and hopefully draw the best out of his players. It’s a fine line,” suggested Irwin in a conversation with the PGA TOUR.
Woods is optimistic about his ability to pull off wearing both hats and is happy to host almost the entire week this week in the Bahamas. “Well, I think it’s great that the guys were able to come here and play,” said Woods. “It’s a busy two weeks for the guys that are here. DJ obviously needs another week to get ready, so just to have the guys be able to compete, play, shake off a little bit of rust if they have any, work on some things that they’re going to need for either trying to win this event or being ready for next week, just be in the competitive flow for two weeks, it’s fantastic.
“I told all the guys, at Liberty when we had our meeting back in ’98, we weren’t ready to play. It was, again, late in the year in December. The season ended differently, players shut it down and then they geared right back up for Australia and we got beat pretty badly,” recalled Woods. “So it was important for the guys to continue playing, and they have. Now the guys are playing this week to get ready.”
Most importantly, Woods would like to lead his team to a bunch of good memories. “Well, I’m not going to be yelling at the guys, no. More than anything, it’s been about communication,” said Woods. “I’ve stressed this the entire time, be open and honest, be frank
with me. I’ve had a lot of offline conversations with all the players. Just be frank with me. It’ll remain in a locked box, it’s just between you and I. If you want to share with the team, share with the team. If you don’t, it’s between us.”
“I just wanted their honest opinion. And some of the things that we’ve been able to acquiesce and mold things into, you know, different things and we’ve been able to do it, and other things we’ve been able to talk it through. I just appreciate the guys’ honesty. That’s what I want. I’m trying to help them be in the best possible position to go earn points. That’s how we win cups.
And I want them to have a great memorable experience, to come together. We’re never going to have this team again. Every team I’ve been on, that’s one time. You’re never going to have the same 12 guys again. So this is the 2019 Presidents Cup team, so enjoy, be a part of it. I just want them to go out there and just have the time of their lives doing something that we all love to do, which is compete and play. Do something we don’t get a chance to do very often, which is play for something bigger than just ourselves.”
I asked him, how he was going to bridge the gap while he is in the middle trying to garner a point. Normally in team events, the captains are busy riding between matches to guide their team and lift their spirits. Woods will spend plenty of that time, playing his own matchup.
“I think that’s the communication of it. The guys know that I’m going to be responsible for the points when I am playing and I’m at the focus and do my job,” explained Woods. “We have three great vice captains. We’ll have one of them be the captain, and I’m still
waiting for the Tour to tell me when that happens, whether or not — when do I relinquish the captaincy role and officially have someone be the captain because the captain’s the only one who can receive and give advice. The vice captains can receive advice, but they can’t
give advice to the players or even caddies. Trying to figure that out now.
“And then also, when do I play. Still trying to figure that out, too. So there’s a lot of moving parts to it. All the players know that, the vice captains know it. We’re going down there as a team to get it done together. When I’m out there playing, I’m responsible for that point, but when I’m not, I’m responsible for the whole team and it’s something that it’s going to be a lot of fun for all of us.”
Either ways, it will be fascinating to watch Woods juggle hats as a player and captain next week.