Sutton Issues Challenge to Woods

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04 Ryder CupU.S. captain Hal Sutton wants Tiger Woods to bring the same purpose he has in winning majors to the Ryder Cup.
 
'Nobody has to give Tiger Woods a pep talk,' Sutton said Tuesday after the first day of practice at Oakland Hills.
 
'All we have to do is just say, 'Hey, Tiger, it's time you felt this is important. I want you to realize that this is going to be an area that guys are going to judge you by down the road, whether you like it or dislike it. You're the one who chose to be as great as you are. Let's give it all you've got and lead this team.''
 
Woods has been chasing Jack Nicklaus in golf record books since he was a kid. When it comes to the Ryder Cup, though, Tiger doesn't mean Jack.
 
Woods has won more PGA Tour events than Nicklaus at this stage in his career, and his eight majors put him on pace to break Nicklaus' all-time record.
 
The world's No. 2 golfer can only contribute five points to the 14 1/2 points the United States needs to win back the Ryder Cup, but his record has hardly been an inspiration - he is 5-8-2 in his three Ryder Cup matches.
 
He has been shut out on the first day the last two times, allowing Europe to seize early control.
 
He comes into this one no longer No. 1 in the world, his five-year reign atop the world ranking uprooted by Vijay Singh two weeks ago outside Boston.
 
Even so, he is the star of the American team, and in that regard, his captain's urging is new to Woods.
 
'It's not any different than the rest of the captains have said,' Woods said. 'I qualified No. 1 in points every time. All I know is that I've tried my best. Unfortunately, I just haven't gotten more points for our team. Hopefully, I'll be able to get more points for our team where we can win this thing.'
 
Players take one week every other year to compete with their European counterparts for pride and patriotism. The rest of the time, they are trying to win major championships, and Woods drove home that point with a quiz for reporters.
 
'I'm sure all of you guys probably know what Jack's record is in the Ryder Cup, right?' he said, looking around a crowded room and getting no takers. 'Anybody? No?
 
'How many majors did he win?' Woods continued, and heard murmurs of '18' across the room.
 
Then again, Woods got himself in trouble with the British press two years ago at the American Express Championship in Ireland, a week before the Ryder Cup. He was asked which week was more important for him to win, and he picked the World Golf Championship.
 
'Why? I can think of a million reasons,' Woods said, referring to the $1 million winner's check.
 
But comparisons to Nicklaus come with a caveat.
 
Nicklaus (for those keeping score, his record was 17-8-3) played in a different era of the Ryder Cup, a time when the Americans only had to show up to claim the gold trophy.
 
The United States was 5-0-1 in Nicklaus' six Ryder Cups, only one of which came after continental players were added to the European team to make it more competitive. The first one was the famous tie, when he graciously conceded Tony Jacklin a short par putt on the final hole of the final match. In the other five matches, the Americans won by at least five points, a margin that now would be considered a blowout.
 
Europe has captured the cup six of the last nine times, so it's no surprise that Phil Mickelson (8-5-3) and David Toms (3-1-1) are the only U.S. players with a winning record.
 
'Guys, I go out there with the same attitude, and that's just to win, period,' Woods said. 'I don't go into any tournament thinking it would be great to lose. It would be asinine to think that way.'
 
Sutton doesn't believe he has anything to worry about.
 
He looked like a college football coach during the Tuesday practice round - the square jaw, the sunglasses, arms folded across his paunch - as he watched Woods hit a wedge that spun back over the cup on the 11th green.
 
Someone mentioned that Woods was in a slump, having won only one time this year and losing the No. 1 ranking for the first time in five years.
 
'Oh, man, I was out there watching him play. I don't know if you've been out there, but I've been licking my chops over it,' Sutton said. 'I don't think he's in any sort of a slump right now. I aspire to be in his slumps.
 
'No, no, don't be worried about Tiger Woods. If that's your only worry, you have no worries.'
 
Europe wasn't buying into it, either.
 
Padraig Harrington of Ireland, his team's highest-ranked player, said he thought Woods might be tougher this week at Oakland Hills than at his other two Ryder Cups.
 
'His record has not been as good as he would like,' Harrington said. 'He's out to prove something. There's definitely going to be a backlash from Tiger at some Ryder Cup. It's going to happen. I would think it's more of a wounded Tiger at the moment, and it would be very dangerous to play against him.
 
'He's going to have something to prove, and I would see him as quite intimidating.'
 
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