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Tiger Woods should skip home Ryder Cup captaincy and focus on an away win

Vice-captain Tiger Woods of the United States looks on during morning foursome matches of the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National Golf Club on October 1, 2016 in Chaska, Minnesota
Tiger Woods is certainly in no rush to decide whether he will take the Ryder Cup captaincy whether in 2025 or 2027 - Getty Images/Scott Halleran

Tiger Woods is keeping his country hanging and he should stop messing around. If his heart is not in captaining America in the next Ryder Cup, he should come out and say so immediately.

Indeed, if he decided to take on the role in 2027 instead, it would be the brave option and much more befitting for the character with the most steely competitive spirit the sport has ever known.

Anyone can win a home Ryder Cup. There have only been two away victories in the last 13 matches, one of the last nine. It has become nearly a gimme. Captains should be feted for prevailing on the road, not in their own backyard, where they get to skew the test in their favour and where the advantage of home support seems to be multiplying with each contest.

There is more to Woods than achieving the ordinary. He tore down boundaries and reshaped what was deemed possible. No doubt there would be plenty of hoopla if he led the Stars and Stripes to victory in New York next year, but in truth Tiger Woods overseeing a home win should have all the impact of Sir Tom Jones winning the karaoke competition down his local.

There are other reasons why he should announce that he is not interested for Bethpage Black. The entire sport knows it is his to accept or decline. Last week, Luke Donald, the Europe captain told me: “Yeah, I’ve heard it’s his if he wants it. I’ll guess we will just have to wait and see.”

Yet if Woods does come back in, say April and reveal this is not his time, it would be deeply selfish. Stewart Cink, one of the game’s good guys, is in the wings, and already feeling like the second choice. “I do want to be the captain and think I can be,” Cink said last month. “But with all due respect to Tiger Woods, I think it’s up to him.”

US Ryder Cup player Stewart Cink celebra...US Ryder Cup player Stewart Cink celebrates his putt on the 17th green during the opening round of Foursomes on the second day of the 2010 Ryder Cup golf competition between US and Europe at Celtic Manor golf course
Stewart Cink is a veteran of five Ryder Cups, although has only been on the winning side once - AFP/Peter Muhly

Poor old Cink – or “Kitchen” as Woods hilariously refers to him. He became perhaps the most unpopular winner of the Open in the major’s 164-year history when denying the fairytale that was 59-year-old Tom Watson in a play-off in 2009 and if he is appointed for Long Island, the groan will almost be as despondent. Cink deserves better, the Ryder Cup deserves better, and Woods should simply get out of the way if he is feeling at all hesitant.

Instead he hides behind a quite ludicrous excuse. “Right now there’s too much at stake with our tour to think about a Ryder Cup,” he said recently. He was not talking about his own game or the recovery he still tries to make from that self-inflicted car crash nearly three years ago in which he was lucky not to lose his right leg. He was referring to the negotiations with the Saudi Public Investment Fund.

Woods is one member of the 12-strong PGA Tour policy board who will say either yay or nay to whatever merger deal the negotiators come up with after these exhaustive talks. However, listening to Woods – “we’re trying to find a path and there’s been a lot of sleepless hours” – you would be forgiven for suspecting he has relocated to Riyadh where he is burning the midnight oil on a nightly basis with Mohammed bin Salman, in the Crown Prince’s palace.

He is not. But, forever the hero, it is that firefighting image he wants to portray. “The Ryder Cup can take a backseat,” he said. “Everyone involved understands that this is an issue we need to focus on.”

Except they do not acknowledge that at all. Insiders insist, it would take a day out of Woods’s life if he was to accept the reins. An announcement, a bit of media, a few photos… he would back in his South Florida mansion in time for dinner. And there is not much to do in the first few months of captaincy, barring holding the mantle. Cink could then carry on with his career without wondering and the PGA of America could go to work on milking every dollar possible out of what has turned into primarily a cash cow.

Yet, let’s be honest, the Ryder Cup never was a priority for Woods. Fair enough. In constructing one of the great golf CVs, his concentration had to be on himself and so it was. As a consequence, his Ryder Cup record is terrible, comically bad, even. He has played in 37 matches and won just 13 times. In eight Ryder Cups, he has been on the winning team just once, way back in 1999. So goodness why the PGA of America is willing to bend over backwards for him to captain whenever he chooses. Apart from money, of course.

US golfer Tiger Woods juggles his putter during his fourball match on the first day of the 42nd Ryder Cup at Le Golf National Course at Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, south-west of Paris on September 28, 2018
Woods' record as a player in Ryder Cups was patchy, with just a return of 39.2 per cent – compared to Colin Montgomerie's 65.3 per cent for example - Getty Images/Eric Feferberg

There is no guarantee he will be a great skipper – anything but – and the US blazers should hand him an ultimatum. Now. Next time. Or never. But now the dimwits are making it all about him again and once more ignoring all those lessons about the danger of putting the individual before the collective.

Woods actually owes the US Ryder Cup team and that is why he should aim for Adare Manor, a course he knows well because of his friendship with owner JP McManus.

By 2027, America will not won have on foreign soil in 34 years and Europe proved in Rome four months ago that it will require an almighty effort to lower the blue and gold on this side of the Atlantic.

Does Woods have the bottle to put his neck on the line? Or will he take the easy option and allow that neck to be covered in garlands that will not really mean very much at all? His choice. So long as he reveals the answer quickly.

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