Bunker Mentality: Thanks for bringing Tiger!

Eurosport - Tue, 07 Sep 17:23:00 2010

At a few minutes after half-past three UK time, US Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin heartlessly destroyed what had long promised to be one of the great sporting stories of the year: he decided to pick Tiger Woods for the Ryder Cup.

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A few weeks ago Woods was playing appalling golf, the worst of his career, so much so that the world began to wake up to two possibilities: one, that he could fail to make the side automatically; and two, that he would not receive a captain's pick should he fall short.

Sure enough, Woods failed to make the side on his play alone as he finished 23rd at the US PGA Championship, but Pavin has saved him from the ignominy of watching golf's wonderful team event on telly by selecting him as one of his four wildcard choices.

And boy, is BM glad that Pavin did what he did.

As amusing as it would have been to see the great man left out in the short term, it would have been awful come the actual Ryder Cup itself. Any tournament has an added edge when Woods plays, and even the Ryder Cup - one of sport's great spectacles - still basically needs the pulling power of the world's most famous athlete if it is to really capture the imagination.

And on top of everything else, there's absolutely no doubt that Woods simply had to be picked for the team. His form might be poor, but two top-five finishes in Majors this year (at the Masters and US Open) would be regarded as a solid showing for most of the world's top 10.

And Woods is still worthy of his spot as world number one. Although it has been an atrocious year by his standards he is still absolutely brilliant at golf. And though he didn't snag a top-eight spot in the US Ryder Cup standings, he still finished 12th - despite only having played nine qualifying tournaments in 2010, compared to a couple of dozen for most players trying to make the team.

No doubt it'll be a tough week for Tiger. Even in a good year he is famous for hating dinners and gladhanding that goes with Ryder Cup week; chuck in a divorce, poor form and a hostile crowd and it's all set to be a difficult few days in South Wales.

But all those factors surely make it even more likely that Woods will be firing on all cylinders at Celtic Manor. The target golf challenge presented by the 2010 Course is one that the US side will feel instantly comfortable with, and even though Woods has an iffy Ryder Cup record it'd be a great chance for him to begin the next phase of his rehabilitation in the eyes of the public.

The great man has bounced back before - remember that mid-career slump in the mid-00s which he ended with that magical Masters win in 2005 (which included THAT chip-in), and he'll probably do it again.

Whether that will be enough to save a US team that included the unlikely figure of Jeff Overton will be another matter.

Then again, considering Colin Montgomerie's farcical decision to pick the woefully out of form Padraig Harrington over 2010 high-flyer and proven matchplay winner Paul Casey, it's more likely that the home team is the one which will start the matches on the back foot...

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The Ryder Cup has always been almost unique among golf tournaments in that it generates a football-style atmosphere among the fans (only the beer-drenched Phoenix Open comes close).

And the host city of Newport has taken the football parallel one step further with news that a World Cup-style town centre 'fan zone' will be set up in, er, downtown Newport - aka John Frost Square - to give fans a place to gather together and watch the action on big screens while swigging from bottles of Brains SA.

It's a brave experiment, and with live music, crazy golf and golf simulators on hand for those lulls in play it promises to be well worth a visit.


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