Maginnes on Tap: Woods worth Presidents Cup pick

Tiger Woods during the PGA Championship.

Tiger Woods during the PGA Championship.


It is unfair to any player to be compared with Tiger Woods, but Adam Scott has had to endure that for his entire career. From the swing that Butch Harmon built to the comparable stature and overwhelming expectations, Scott gracefully has handled unfair expectations. Obviously, with all of the interest surrounding Steviegate, Scott and Woods are linked in an odd way in the minds of golf fans. Though Scott hardly is what Woods was, in many ways Woods is where Scott was just a couple of years ago.

Two years ago, Greg Norman reached down to a struggling Adam Scott and offered his Australian countryman a spot on the International Team for the Presidents Cup. It was a surprise move, given that Scott had fallen to 58th in the Official World Golf Ranking. That 2009 season had been abysmal for the Aussie phenomenon. Scott’s ranking and confidence grew enough after the selection for him to win the Australian Open in late 2009. It was a significant comeback, which he attributed to his selection to the team. At one point during that dismal season, Scott missed six consecutive cuts. From mid-February to late May, he failed to break 70.

Considering that and where we are in the game now, maybe rather than comparing Scott with Woods, it should be the other way around. After the PGA Championship, where he missed the cut, Woods is 108th on the money list and has watched his world ranking sink to 33rd. Woods’ numbers this year are similar to Scott’s from 2009, when he finished 108th in earnings. Obviously, Woods is recovering from injuries to his left leg and has managed just eight starts this season. But watching Woods during the past two weeks, including his tie for 37th at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational after 12 weeks off, it seems apparent that the golfer whom we are seeing now is a far cry from the man who dominated the sport for more than a decade. At times, Woods seems out of sorts on the golf course.

U.S. captain Fred Couples has said that if Woods is healthy, he is a “lock” to be on the American team for the Nov. 17-20 Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Australia. Clearly, with Woods’ Tour season ending with the PGA Championship, he will need Couples to use one of his two captain’s picks to make the team. Woods’ selection would generate debate, as does most everything with golf’s former undisputed star. But the fact is, he was 5-0 at Harding Park two years ago and certainly could be an asset to the American side.

The bigger picture here suggests that Woods could benefit greatly from being on the team. Scott, like Trevor Immelman before him, said that he felt a responsibility to justify the captain’s pick The little-known Immelman was selected by International captain Gary Player, like Immelman a South African, in 2005. Immelman validated the pick with his first U.S. victory the next year, at the Western Open. Two years later, he donned the green jacket as Masters champion. Adam Scott not only won the 2009 Australian Open but went on to claim his seventh PGA Tour victory the next year at the Valero Texas Open. After winning the recent WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Scott is back in the top 10 in the world, at No. 7, and a long way from his struggles just two years ago.

Woods is looking for a similar comeback. A captain’s pick onto the Presidents Cup team could be just the impetus. If Woods can humble himself enough to realize the spirit of this pick, it could be a turning point. Usually, captain’s picks go to golfers whose recent play has warranted the pick. With Woods, much like Norman’s faith in Scott in 2009, the pick would be based on Couples’ belief that the 14-time major champion will flourish in the team atmosphere.

With Woods, there always seems to be speculation. Swing criticisms by the experts certainly can be based in solid theory bordering fact, but psychological theories tend to leave us wanting. Psychological scars are harder to measure, even by experts, and impossible to assess from afar. Ever private, Woods gives no indications publicly of where he is emotionally. In my acquaintances with Woods, my impression is that he doesn’t share much with those close to him, either. He still says the right things, even when his golf ball refuses to do what he wants. What Woods has been through -- rather, put himself through -- has to leave its remnants scattered all over the floor of his life right now. In spite of what we thought through the years of domination, Woods certainly is human.

Couples knows a thing or two about trying to play through personal turmoil. He knows even more about trying to play through pain. He, too, was awed by Woods during the past decade-and-a-half. Now, Couples and the other 11 players on the Presidents Cup team have an opportunity to offer kindness and support to the one player who seemed to need it the least throughout his career.

At this point, there may not be anybody who needs it more.

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