Tiger Woods roars into Ryder Cup having squashed any doubts

ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 23: Tiger Woods of the United States stands on the eighth green during the final round of the TOUR Championship at East Lake Golf Club on September 23, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Tim Bradbury/Getty Images

Tiger Woods roars into Ryder Cup having squashed any doubts

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Tiger Woods roars into Ryder Cup having squashed any doubts

ATLANTA – Anyone who doubts Tiger Woods is ready for this week’s Ryder Cup probably also doubts the French know how to make good wine. Seriously, what more could anyone have wanted to see over the past few weeks?

Paired with Tommy Fleetwood in the opening round of the Tour Championship, Woods shot 65 while the Englishman, who plays for Europe this week in Paris, carded a 69. That evening Fleetwood took to Twitter and succinctly wrote, “Tiger Woods is good at golf.”

With his B-game on Friday at East Lake, Woods found a way to shoot 68 and shared the 36-hole lead with Justin Rose, another European Ryder Cupper. Playing alongside the eventual FedEx Cup winner on Saturday, Woods was electrifying as he made five consecutive birdies on his way to a front-nine 30 and another 65.

Mark Fulcher, Rose’s caddie, wrote on Twitter, “Tommy Fleetwood is 100% correct …. Tiger Woods is good at golf ….”

Then there was Sunday. Woods shot 71 alongside European team member Rory McIlroy, who posted a 74. Had their final round been match play, Woods would have won 5 and 4.

Over and over at East Lake, Woods talked about how when he missed shots, he left himself angles to the hole instead of putting the ball in bad positions. His good shots set up birdie putts while his misses were playable, and in this week’s matches that will keep Woods and his partners from giving away holes.

Woods’ willingness to tinker with his gear is a big reason for his success heading into the Ryder Cup. Before the Northern Trust, he went back to an old driver shaft and added loft to his club, sacrificing a couple of yards for the ability to carve the ball more effectively and increase his consistency.

“The neat thing about this one is that if I miss it and spin it a little bit, those spinners stay in play instead of chasing off on me, and I can turn this ball,” Woods said in Atlanta.

Throughout the FedEx Cup Playoffs, Woods averaged 1.19 strokes gained off the tee.

And after using a mallet and putting poorly at the Northern Trust, Woods changed to a TaylorMade blade putter at TPC Boston, then changed again to put his old Scotty Cameron putter back in the bag.

After Woods needed just 23 putts to card his Saturday 65 at East Lake, he said, “My speed has been good. I’m seeing the arc of the putts, and the best part is that I’m releasing that toe, and that toe feels like it’s hooking every time. It’s a great feeling. I feel great when I’ve got a lot of release in my hands.”

Sure, there were only 30 players in the field at East Lake, but Woods’ 5.121 strokes gained putting ranked second for the week. Combined in the three FedEx Cup playoff events in which he used a blade-style putter, Woods’ strokes gained putting average was 2.174.

Having just won the Tour Championship and collecting his 80th PGA Tour win, Woods is going to bring more than just the expectation of great play to Paris. At 42, Woods also has experience as a vice-captain on both a winning Ryder Cup team and a winning Presidents Cup team featuring younger players who idolized him. It’s a unique perspective.

Golfers such as Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Bryson DeChambeau see him as a mentor, a source of knowledge to be tapped.

“Being a vice-captain, being part of the teams and getting to know them on a different level, I think that’s where the questions started popping up,” Woods said. “They started inquiring of some of the things that I’ve gone through and how they could become better.”

DeChambeau, who is expected to pair with Woods at Le Golf National, feels especially lucky to have bonded with Woods.

“He’s not just another guy. I mean, he’s Tiger Woods,” DeChambeau said. “It’s always fun to learn a little bit from him and maybe throw some ideas at him that he’s like, whoa, that’s a little different. So it’s fun to kind of go back and forth. He’s been fantastic to me, and I can’t thank him enough for being as nice as he has.”

At the same time, no one will wear a bigger bulls-eye on his back during the Ryder Cup than Woods. In past events, any time the Europeans have beaten Woods, it has given them a big psychological lift, making it feel like that match was worth more than just one point.

U.S. captain Jim Furyk won’t care, because Woods appears ready to be a force in the Ryder Cup for the first time in over a decade. Gwk

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