Tiger ready to bite back

TIGER WOODS could well beup for this Ryder Cup and ifthat’s the case, young Rory McIlroy had better watch out.

You tend to learn more about world number one Woods by the things he doesn’t say than the glib responses he offers more frequently to searching questions in press conferences andyesterday in Wales, the American was asked for his reaction to McIlroy’s quote that he fancied playing against him this weekend.

“Me too,” shot back Woods with a stare at the inquisitor.

“Care to elaborate,” continued the reporter? “No,” came the curt response, the 14-time major winner saying more in that one word about his intent to make someone pay for the perceived affront.

Vijay Singh’s former caddie had tried an even less diplomatic tack than McIlroy’s at the Presidents Cup in 2000 when he wore cap with the words “Tiger Who?” printed on it.

Woods won 2&1.

Seven years later, Rory Sabbatini smelled Tiger blood when he described Woods as being “as beatable as ever” as he took a one-shot lead over him into the final round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

Woods’ response when the two played in the final pairing on Sunday was to demolish his opponent by nine shots. “That was fun,” said Tiger afterwards, the economy of words doing far more damage than a vengeful tirade.

So now Woods has two European team members on his list having been annoyed by Ian Poulter some time ago and that should be quite enough to get the American motivated.

The minimalism continued as Woods was greeted during his press conference by a reporter who offered this gem: “You don’t win majors anymore, you don’t win regular tournaments anymore and you are about to be deposed by Europeans as the world number one; where is The Ryder Cup now on your agenda now that you’re an ordinary golfer?”

Woods didn’t even answer that one, restricting himself to a smile and telling the London tabloid hack: “I hope you have a good week.”

Any more of this and US captain Corey Pavin may have a dedicated Ryder Cupper on his hands.

Indeed, when the sensible questions were asked, Woods presented himself as an elder statesman on the American team and admitted he was much more comfortable in that role than he had been as a young player back in 1997 and 1999, when some comments he made set in stone the perception that he was not a team guy.

“It’s just because of the age,” Woods said. “I was a pretty young guy, and I was usually the youngest player on the team for basically, I think, eight years. Most of the guys that I played with, you know, my rookie year, are now on the Senior Tour. Those are my team-mates.

“So there was a difference in age, and don’t forget, I came out of college, two years of playing for Stanford (University) every week, and it was harder to relate because these guys were older than I was and I just left the Stanford team.

“As the years have gone by, now there’s quite a few guys who are younger than me on the team. We have had a good mix over the years, and that’s where I was candid earlier in my career, because the guys were older. They have been around the block, won major championships and tournaments all around the world and they have been there before.”

Pavin’s only direct reference to Woods was regards his tailor-made partnership with Steve Stricker, and having neatly sidestepped a question from a representative of the British tabloids about the world number one’s relationship with his team-mate’s wives, Pavin chose to highlight the five debutants on his American team.

Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Jeff Overton and Bubba Watson all qualified by right and the captain added 21-year-old Rickie Fowler to the complement as one of his four picks.

All five of the quintet impressed Pavin during their first day of practice on the TwentyTen course with Kuchar and Overton playing alongside Stewart Cink and Jim Furyk while Phil Mickelson shepherded the other three around.

“I like these rookies,” he said. “They are aggressive, positive players. You know, it’s kind of the different breed (to) back in the old days when I was playing. These guys are aggressive, positive, and they are going to come out firing. I watched some of them today and they seemed quite fine out there, very relaxed.”


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