Tiger Woods to provide motivational stimulus as US's secret Ryder Cup weapon

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US golfer Tiger Woods walks past the trophy after Europe won the 42nd Ryder Cup at Le Golf National Course at Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, south-west of Paris, on September 30, 2018 - FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images
US golfer Tiger Woods walks past the trophy after Europe won the 42nd Ryder Cup at Le Golf National Course at Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, south-west of Paris, on September 30, 2018 - FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images

President George W Bush, Major Dan Rooney and all the other motivational speakers employed in the US team-room at the Ryder Cup in the recent past will not be required this time around. Steve Stricker has decided not to summon outside inspiration this week at Whistling Straits, but will instead call on Tiger Woods to provide the stimulus.

Woods will not be at the Wisconsin layout in the role of vice-captain, because he is still recovering from the catastrophic knee injuries suffered in a car crash in February. But that does not mean the 15-time major winner will not have an input.

And while a fleeting visit by Woods remains a possibility, it is understood that, at the very least, a video link will be set up so that he can address his fellow players.

Stricker believes that should be more than enough to create that magical bond which always commands so much attention in the run up to a biennial dust-up. This low-key approach will be quite the departure from past atmospheres which at times have felt less like the US pros were in a sports environment and more that they were in briefing rooms for the special forces.

In Brookline, President Bush famously spoke to the US team on the Saturday night and asked them to “remember the Alamo”, and at Celtic Manor, Major Rooney, a fighter pilot with three tours to Iraq under his belt, told the players “we have a great warrior spirit and our mission is to pull this off on hostile territory”. To Stricker, these calls to arms clearly felt over the top.

“It [the team bonding] should happen naturally, although it doesn’t always work out that way,” Paul Azinger, the 2008 US captain said. “Look, every captain is going to create an environment for the guys to be successful in the best way that they know how.

“And I’ve talked to Steve and he’s told me that he is going to eliminate the things that made him nervous as a Ryder Cup player - the inspirational videos and speakers and stuff like that and he is just going to sell the message of preparation really hard and try to have an advantage on that course. He also said that Tiger has been on all the time with his observations. That is a neat guy to have in your corner.”

Woods could even be called Strciker’s secret weapon, in the sense that he will not there be on show. However, Stricker has emphasised what he believes will be the importance of his friend’s influence on this match.

“He is still part of this Ryder Cup family,’ said Stricker. “I’ve talked to him a lot. He is very passionate about the Ryder Cup and a great guy to talk to, and lean on. He continues to be a part of this, even if he can’t be there in person. He will be with us in spirit and help us from afar.

“The guys really respect him, and he did a great job obviously as a captain [at the 2019 Presidents Cup], but he was an assistant captain in the 2016 Ryder Cup and of mine in the 2017 Presidents Cup - he was unbelievable. He would do anything for you, and he’s totally, totally vested in the situation and the process. He’s told me, ‘I don’t know if I can be there or not, but you know I’m here for you all the way’. “That shows his level of commitment to me and the team.”

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