News & Opinion

Do right thing, Tiger: Don’t play Prez Cup

Will Tiger Woods use a captain’s pick to choose himself as a player for the U.S. Presidents Cup team? Should he? The fact that we are even asking these questions demonstrates that the Presidents Cup is in dire need of an enthusiasm transplant, and has been in all 25 years of its existence.

Will Tiger Woods use a captain’s pick to choose himself as a player for the U.S. Presidents Cup team? Should he?

The fact that we are even asking these questions demonstrates that the Presidents Cup is in dire need of an enthusiasm transplant, and has been in all 25 years of its existence. It was thought that naming Woods as U.S. captain would gin up excitement in an event that has underreached those outside the group of core golfers who would watch whether they teed it up on an interstate freeway.

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As captain of the U.S. team for the Presidents Cup, Tiger Woods holds the key for the final say about his squad’s makeup.

© GOLFFILE/KEN MURRAY
As captain of the U.S. team for the Presidents Cup, Tiger Woods holds the key for the final say about his squad’s makeup.

The Presidents Cup is not the Ryder Cup; never will be nor should it aspire to be. It is at best a distant cousin. The Americans who play don’t get amped up for this competition, and the Internationals can’t seem to scrape together a competitive team. The U.S. has won seven consecutive matches in the biennial series and leads, 10-1-1.

In December, the Presidents Cup will be contested in Australia at Royal Melbourne, the site of the Internationals’ lone victory, in 1998. Australia is problematic for the PGA Tour and the organizers because live television will be in middle of the night in the eastern half of the U.S. That reality leaves some observers wondering whether TV ratings won’t need some kind of boost if the event is to be a financial success.

That brings us back to the questions above. Will he? Should he? And the answer to both is: No.

Second question first: There are a number of reasons why Woods should not be a playing captain. At the top of the list is his physical condition. Although the Presidents Cup is not until Dec. 12-15, and the teams will not be named until the week of Nov. 4, the fact remains that he has played only six events since his Masters victory in April, for a total of 17 competitive rounds.

He missed two cuts and withdrew at the Northern Trust after a 75 in the first round, citing an abdominal injury. One of the missed cuts came at the British Open, where it was clear that he was not in a good place physically. That came after an overnight trans-Atlantic flight and not much time for his surgically-repaired back to recover. Compare that with a flight to Australia that could take as long as 22-24 hours. Who knows what that will do to his tender and unpredictable back?

Woods competed in last year’s Ryder Cup in France in late September, one week after winning the Tour Championship, and he played miserably against the Europeans, compiling an 0-4-0 record.

Add that to the fact that Woods announced on Tuesday that he had a procedure on his left knee to repair what he called “minor cartilage damage.” He insists that he will be ready to play in Japan in October, where it’s assumed he’s getting a hefty appearance fee.

Though he might be able to play, how good will he be? That’s one of the questions that must be asked when it comes to the Presidents Cup.

Even if he did play, he would be unable to be used in more than two or three matches, given his health issues. A captain’s pick needs to be available for at least three or four matches, depending on how well he’s playing. You’d hate to waste a pick – even if it’s Woods – on a player who is limited in his availability.

He also shouldn’t choose himself because being a captain in such a match has too much responsibility to pile those duties on his assistant captains while he’s playing. Granted, one of his assistants is Fred Couples, who was a winning Presidents Cup captain three times, and another is Steve Stricker, who was the winning captain two years ago. They could more than capably handle things if Woods decides to play.

But the bottom line is that Woods is there to be the captain, not to complicate things by being a playing captain. There has not been a playing captain in the Presidents Cup since Hale Irwin went 2-1-0 for the winning American team in 1994. The most recent playing captain in a Ryder Cup was Arnold Palmer, who went 4-2-0 for the winning U.S. team in 1963.

Now, the question: Will he? This one is not so predictable. Woods insists that his assistant captains and the eight automatically qualified players will have input into the four captain’s picks.

You can’t say no to the greatest player of the past couple of generations, can you? If Woods says he’s fit and ready to go, what do you do if you’re one of the players or assistant captains? How could you look him in the eye and choose four players ahead of him?

That’s a position no one wants, and it’s not a position in which Woods should put his players or assistants. He easily could eliminate such a potential problem by taking himself out of the running as a player. For all involved, including Woods, it’s best for him to step up and do the right thing.

Mike Purkey has written about golf for more than 30 years for a number of publications, including Golf Magazine and Global Golf Post. He lives in Charlotte, N.C. Email: golfedit@gmail.com; Twitter: @mikepurkeygolf