He may be staying silent this week, but there is no escaping the presence of Tiger Woods at this Ryder Cup.
A vice-captain to Davis Love, the 14-time major champion has had a fractious relationship with this event and his record against Europe is far from stellar, winning just once in seven appearances.
However, at Hazeltine National — the scene of key individual disappointments, at the 2002 and 2009 PGA Championships — 40-year-old Woods is proving a more than willing contributor to his country’s cause.
When the team gathered for the first time on Sunday night, Woods and Phil Mickelson shared centre stage, as they told tales from past campaigns and as schmaltzy as that sounds to a European ear, those inside the room loved every minute of it.
In public view, Woods shoots the breeze with the players, sharing a joke and offering advice, his input appearing to be greatly appreciated.
“I think, when we started talking about this year’s Ryder Cup, we felt like we needed experience with our assistant captains,” said Love. “We needed some former captain experience and some possible future captain experience.
“I think it really adds a lot to have Tiger, his analysis of how to break down a golf course, how to prepare for a major championship. His analysis and his determination and his focus have really been helpful over the last couple months.”
His dedication has taken many by surprise, with players reporting a flurry of phone calls from the former number one in recent weeks.
“He called me two weeks ago, you know, and started talking to me then,” said Brandt Snedeker.
“We were on the phone for an hour-and-a-half. Called me several times... got to the point where I was joking around, like you’re calling me more than my wife is right now, we need to figure something out. But it’s great to have that kind of commitment and that kind of passion from a guy like Tiger. I think that’s something that gets lost.
“We’re talking about everything. How we are getting prepared as a team, how I should be getting prepared as an individual, what our thought processes should be, how we are going to come together as a team, why we haven’t been successful in the past, and why we’re going to be successful going forward...
“He’s 100% in. He’s probably spent more time in the last three weeks on this stuff than all of the other assistant captains put together. That’s the kind of guy he is and how much he cares about it. It’s infectious.”
Mickelson has also been won over: “ The last few weeks, we’ve been talking on the phone multiple times a day. It’s been really exciting for us, because we’ve been on so many teams for so many years, and to have this much input and involvement, the way Davis has implemented everybody’s input, the way he’s brought everybody together and their ideas, has been truly an inclusive process and it’s been fun for Tiger and I to be a part of something like that.”
Colin Montgomerie believes Woods has another role, that of an intimidator to the six European rookies as they wait on the first tee, but debutant Andy Sullivan is not buying it.
“Anyone that came to watch me, I would be happy, but if Tiger comes and stand next to me and watches me play golf, I don’t think I’d get nervous.
"I’d want to impress him almost and just go out there and do my thing and give him a little smile and a handshake and congratulate him on what he’s done for golf.”
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