An important Ryder Cup for Tiger Woods
Corey Pavin sat at the head table on the seventh floor of the New York Stock Exchange and announced his four captain’s picks to reporters and PGA of America dignitaries. The players, so thrilled to be chosen you could almost see them beaming as they listened via a conference call, were introduced one by one and asked to say “hello” to their captain.
This was new for Woods. He has led the Ryder Cup standings every time since turning pro.
“Tiger Woods, are you with us today?” PGA spokesman Julius Mason said from the podium. “Say ‘good morning’ to your captain and everybody else in attendance today.”
An awkward silence followed.
Mason turned slightly nervous when he called out his name again, and for the briefest moment, some in the room wondered if Woods didn’t bother calling in or had hung up. Mason looked relieved to finally hear Woods’ voice.
The only time Woods is ever on a conference call is to accept PGA Tour player of the year or to speak to local media at a tournament where he is the defending champion. On Tuesday, he was no different than Zach Johnson, Stewart Cink and Rickie Fowler – even though he is very different.
Woods has won twice as many majors as the rest of the U.S. team combined, and nearly as many PGA Tour titles. He has been No. 1 in the world longer than seven of his teammates have been on tour.
But he still needed to be a captain’s pick to play. And there’s a reason for that.
True, Woods got a late start on the year when he tried to salvage a marriage that was shattered by his infidelity. He didn’t play until the Masters and has competed only 11 times this year. That still should have been enough for him to qualify for the team, except that Woods had trouble finishing in the top 10.
He no longer looks invincible on the golf course.
The American team no longer can be perceived as Tiger Woods and 11 other guys wearing the same uniform. At the moment, he’s not playing any better than them.
It could be the best thing that ever happened to him.
Woods is not the loner on tour that some make him out to be. At one tournament this year, he bet one of his playing partners who would shoot the lowest score over 36 holes, and the loser had to buy tickets to the movies that afternoon.
And while he privately rolls his eyes at black-tie dinners and opening ceremonies at the Ryder Cup that can feel more like a presidential inauguration, the best times of the year are spent in the team room with his fellow Americans.
“What nobody understands – it doesn’t matter if it’s you or my son or a fan on TV or Tiger’s mom – you don’t get it unless you’re in the team room,” said Davis Love III, an assistant captain this year. “Tiger is great in the team room. He’s a smart guy. He’s a talented player. He wants to do everything he can to win. He’s learned how to be a quiet leader and a vocal leader. He’s learned to say the right things. It’s just hard to describe.”
Woods makes it sound as if this Ryder Cup is no different from the others.
“I’m part of the team, and honored to be part of the team,” Woods said. “Whether I was a person who was picked or a person who earned their way on the squad, it doesn’t change the overall goal. It’s still the same. And that’s to go over there and win.”
But it is different.
Woods still gets the bulk of attention because of who he is and what he has done. He will get most of the questions, and while queries into his divorce have tapered off, they are sure to come up again in the British tabloids.
Even so, he is closer than ever to being one of 12.
His relationship with Pavin is surprisingly strong. A month ago, without prompting, Woods referred to Pavin as one of the greatest players ever in golf considering his limited length in an era of power.
The day before the PGA Championship, TV reporter Jim Gray pointed his finger toward Pavin’s face and chest during a dispute over an interview. Woods found out about it the next morning during a fog delay at Whistling Straits. After finishing his first round, when Gray asked a question, Woods offered a terse answer and turned his head to find the next question.
It was a not-so-subtle message that Woods had the captain’s back.
Woods spent the last two days at the Deutsche Bank Championship going over the captain’s picks as if he were going to be in room with Pavin and his assistants trying to decide who to take.
The only time he bristled Tuesday is when a British reporter suggested he had been indifferent about the Ryder Cup.
“I don’t know where the perception of indifference is, because I’ve always loved it,” Woods said. “The team bonding that occurs, getting to know the guys and everyone there that’s associated with our team, are experiences that you’ll never forget. And I’ve created some great friendships because of it.”
This will be the seventh Ryder Cup team for Love, his first as an assistant, so he knows what to expect when 12 individuals get together, no matter how good they are, no matter how much they’ve been through.
“He’s a welcome addition,” Love said, “because we want to wrap our arms around him and bring him back to us.”
Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test
One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.
Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.
"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."
Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.
"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.
Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.
"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."
Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage
Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.
Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.
Swipe to see what’s up in my world. It’s long-winded.... short version, we lost the baby. Had to share this since we had shared the news already. I know you’re all so supportive and kind. I just couldn’t face it before. Now let’s get back to our regularly scheduled programming. #ihavealotoffeelings #andphotostocatchupon
“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”
The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.
“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.
Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia
This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.
The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.
Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.
The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.
A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.
And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.
The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.
Green jacket tour
Man of the people
Ace at 17th at Sawgrass
Departure from TaylorMade
Squashed beef with Paddy
Victory at Valderrama
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com is counting down the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. Check out the list below, including future release dates:
No. 4: Dec. 13
No. 3: Dec. 14
No. 2: Dec. 15
No. 1: Dec. 18