Maginnes on Tap: Woods looks ready for Prez Cup

Tiger Woods during the final round of the Australian Open.

Tiger Woods during the final round of the Australian Open.

I don’t know if Tiger is back or not. I do know that he is at least part of the way back and for the Presidents Cup that is enough. One bad day in the Presidents Cup will cost you a point, maybe two if it’s Saturday. For a guy that went 5-0 at Harding Park, that seems good enough. To win a major championship – to win the Australian Open – there is still work to do. But for the Presidents Cup and more specifically for match play, Tiger is more than ready.

There are a couple of things to note about Tiger’s record in the Presidents Cup. The first is that the first time he teed it up in the “exhibition” the U.S. Team got trounced, demolished, whipped. They were taken to the wood shed in 1998 at Royal Melbourne losing 20 1/2 to 11 1/2. Interestingly enough, Tiger’s first Ryder Cup was the year before – when the Europeans slipped past the Americans at Valderrama. Unlike every other facet of Tiger’s career in team competition, he had gotten off to a rocky start.

Tiger’s Presidents Cup record is a more than respectable 18-11-1. What is interesting about his record is that he has always played the most high-profile player, if not the best player from the other team. In the 1998 singles matches, he played Greg Norman and won. He played Ernie Els in South Africa (2003) in what is remember as perhaps the Presidents Cup’s greatest match and he played Mike Weir in Canada (2007).

The question on everyone’s mind seems to be whether or not Tiger will play Adam Scott. Adam is open to it and we certainly know that Tiger will play anyone put in front of him. However, U.S. captain Fred Couples is a savvy guy when it comes to this type of stuff and he might just pick on the new guy for a couple of reasons. Jason Day last week asked to play with Tiger at the Presidents Cup and it seemed to bring out the best in Tiger. If Jason is paired with Robert Allenby, which is rumored, then a match-up involving those three players seems even more likely. Tiger played with both men last week, though Allenby struggled.

Tiger will almost assuredly be paired with Steve Stricker, who has said he is feeling better after a neck injury that caused weakness in his left arm toward the end of the FedEx Cup playoffs in September. Woods and Stricker are a formidable duo in any competition. If there was a rusty part of the game for Tiger last week it was his driver. Tiger also made a few mental errors that probably cost him a chance to win the tournament. Stricker doesn’t make mental errors and if he is swinging the club the way he is capable, he is the ideal compliment to Tiger’s explosiveness.

All discussions are over for now about Couples putting Tiger on the team. Those discussions will only be renewed if Tiger goes down in flames at the Presidents Cup. But that seems less likely with each passing day. What does seem apparent is that the U.S. squad is going to need all hands on deck this week to make these matches competitive. Home country advantage is worth a couple of points, especially in Australia.

No matter who is paired together or how the matches turn out, if they are close they will be the most exciting in Presidents Cup history. Tiger has been a great storyline over the last few months but so has Steve Stricker, Jason Day and the player-caddie combination of Scott and Steve Williams. Some may say there really isn’t much at stake in these matches, but you won’t hear that from the players.

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