Roll the dice, Davis
Do you have a second? We’re wondering if you might be willing to put aside your Excel spreadsheets and your Hazeltine yardage books for a minute. You’ve been burning the candle at both ends trying to figure out a way to win back the Ryder Cup for the United States, and frankly, we’re proud of everything you’ve done so far. Congrats on making your first three captain’s picks. You went the safe and logical route with Rickie, Matt and J.B., and we can’t object to any of their selections. We like that you’re blending your instincts with statistics and logic.
Now we’d like to propose something insane, Davis. You might initially scoff. You might roll your eyes. But hear us out first. The PGA of America wants you to make your final captain’s pick during halftime of Sunday Night Football on NBC, so imagine the following scenario: After the highlight package wraps up, the camera cuts to you, alone on a putting green. You’re decked out in red, white and blue, and you’re night putting, silently rolling six footers toward the cup. Phil Mickelson walks into the frame, nods and extends his hand.
“Davis,” he says, “I think I found the guy who is going to be our 12th man at Hazeltine. He might be a little rusty, but he’s hungry to prove himself. I believe you’re familiar with his work.”
The camera pulls back, and into the frame steps Tiger Woods.
We know this isn’t going to happen, Davis. It’s illogical. It’s absurd. He hasn’t played in a year. He’s had three back surgeries. At times last year, he couldn’t break 80. People would howl in protest, and you’d be grouped in with Tom Waton and Hal Sutton as one of the most foolish Ryder Cup captains of all time.
Do it anyway. Pick him.
Once you think through every aspect of this decision, you’ll realize what amazing moment this would be. Engage in a little fan fiction with us, Davis. As Avon said to Stringer in Season 3 of The Wire, just dream with me for a minute.
You’d have people all across the country jumping off their couches, giving each other Tiger-Stevie high-fives with tears in their eyes. The Ryder Cup isn’t about logic, it’s about emotion. Passion. It’s about making bold strokes. The U.S. team has spent the better part of 15 years making safe decisions, and it usually ends up with scruffy Europeans soaking themselves in champagne.
Why not appeal, just this once, to our hearts?
Sure, this decision rests on two major assumptions being correct: One, that Woods is completely healthy after taking a year off to recover from back surgery. With his recent announcement about the Safeway Open (which starts just 11 days after the Ryder Cup), we have to assume that at the very least he believes this is true. The second assumption is that healthy Tiger has enough game to make birdies on a grown-ass man’s golf course. Based on his mantra that you should never play (or plan to play) unless you expect to win, we have to assume he believes this to be true, as well.
Let’s make one thing clear: This choice isn’t about thinking that Tiger Woods is a better golfer than the next 15 to 20 options on the U.S. side. Over 72 holes of stroke play, there’s no reason to believe he’d beat Bubba Watson or Ryan Moore or Daniel Berger or Kevin Na. Heck, Tiger might not even be able to play four straight days of 18 holes. Choosing him for this team would be unprecedentedly unfair to all of them.
But you know what? Do it anyway, Davis. Every single of those guys owes Tiger Woods for the way he changed the face of American golf forever. He might play like crap, but he might also be brilliant.
Yes, you’re going to take some heat for this one, Davis. Critics on TV and the Internet will say you’re turning the Ryder Cup into a sideshow. They’ll say you’re not taking it seriously and that you’re reinforcing golf’s Tiger crutch. But they’ll be missing the point.
Big Cat is still the biggest draw in sports and getting him off the golf cart and onto the tee box is the only way to draw that many eyeballs to our sports’ most exciting event. Let the rest of golf assemble all the task forces and committees and foot golf courses it wants. You alone have the chance to do something real. This Ryder Cup could be the most effective possible commercial for the game of golf. All you have to do is give people what they already want.
Woods needs to play two matches at the most. Sunday singles is a crapshoot at best. But go ahead and put him out in the opening four ball match with a birdie machine like Dustin, one of the game’s hottest (and most unflappable) players for protection. The worst-case scenario: The U.S. loses two points (which are certainly not guaranteed simply by having Watson, Moore, Na or Berger on the team). Getting the home fans hype AF is worth a point in itself.
The best-case scenario: An immeasurable and immediate boost for Team USA, a record audience and the most entertaining and fun event possible.
And if he goes 0–2? We’ll commission another task force, we’ll consider bringing back the godawful shirts from 1999, we’ll try again in Paris in two years.
Davis, you know what can happen at these team events. As cliche as it sounds, these are the places where players snap out of funks and find form and do supernatural things. World-class golfers playing an 18-hole match is like a duel with pistols. The slumping players are easy to beat until they’re not. Patrick Reed was mediocre at best entering the 2014 Ryder Cup. Phil Mickelson was all but written off before last year’s Presidents Cup. If Woods is going to find any kind of a spark, it’s going to be in a bite-sized, 18-hole showdown where bogeys and quads all count the same.
If you roll the dice and the U.S. goes on to lose, we’ll have your back. Yes, it’d be another black eye, but let’s not exaggerate the stakes. No one gets assassinated if Europe retains the cup. There are no global trade implications. They aren’t going to cancel the 2018 match due to lack of U.S. interest. Choosing Tiger is noble. It’s gambling to give us a chance at one of the most memorable moments in the history of sports. It would be illogical and delusional and possibly a disaster, but it could also be electric. Like Kurt Gibson limping to the plate against Eckersley in the 1988 World Series, a once-vaunted, but now nearly-forgotten warrior poised to swing his sword when we need him most.
Can you fathom the effect Big Cat would have on young players like Brooks Koepka, Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed by just being there? Of that group which grew up idolizing him, only Fowler has ever played a Ryder Cup with him.
Reed would be out of his mind all week. He would rip away his American scripting on the first tee to reveal a Big Cat onesie he would then play in over the next three days. He might literally make his brother-in-law lead around a live tiger at Hazeltine while carrying the bag. There are potential scenarios that Reed has undoubtedly been dreaming of since he was five years old that we can’t even begin to predict. The only threat is that his high fives could potentially put Tiger back in a hospital bed.
Critics and contrarians will say Tiger never cared about the Ryder Cup. Why would he provide any juice for the young guys already on the squad?
You know this isn’t true. You know him so much better than that. And when they pull out that tired bullshit, just show them his picture from 1999, when Justin Leonard made the Putt Heard Round The World. Point to Tiger on the right side of the frame, jumping six feet in the air, 23 years old and full of so much joy and promise.
That guy doesn’t care?
We saw a glimpse of that Tiger at the Wyndham before his back gave out (again). There is still some magic there. A club-twirlin’ pimp-steppin’ hole-pointin’ Woods would cover up any deficiencies on the course with the mojo he would provide to Spieth, Reed, Koepka, Fowler and the rest. Even Phil would love it: I got 200–1 odds a month ago that this would happen! Hell, you could even pair them together (again). They’re different men now than they were in 2004, when they were wrestling for trophies, jackets and history. Hal Sutton couldn’t understand why they couldn’t stomach one another in their primes, but times have changed. They’ll never be best friends, but they’ve grown fond of one another in recent years. They both love golf, and both love this country.
It has the potential to be transcendent, an overwhelming boost to a team ready to blow the doors off a continent and rip its heart (i.e. Sergio) out. Have Tiger drop his new nice guy routine — “Hey, I’m boys with Jason Day” — and let him stalk his old Spanish nemesis all weekend. Tiger could even ride a Segway between holes. Watch the Europeans melt.
Don’t pair him with Matt Kuchar. Don’t let Jimmy Walker and him yuk it up in four-ball. Don’t try to get cute with him and Zach Johnson. No, give him to Reed or D.J. or Spieth, and let them deconstruct six years of American heartbreak.
Roll him out there on Friday morning and let the whole thing wash over Darren Clarke’s boys. The GOAT is here, boys. Time to eat. Rory grew up with posters of Tiger on his wall? Well, let’s see how well your new putting stroke holds up with Tiger vying to kick your ass.
Just let this scenario sit with you for the rest of the afternoon. Picture the first tee. Picture the fans. Picture Patrick Reed in all his chest-bumping, high-fiving renegade glory, standing next to Tiger in a matching red shirt, pointing at Lee Westwood, reminding Westy of all the times Tiger snatched his manhood and tossed it in a blender. Picture the tweets. Picture the ratings. Picture the press conferences and the tension and the joy. Picture the analysis of the lineups and uniforms and everything being taken to that next notch (and all of it happening in front of brand new golf fans). Cynics insist his presence would be a distraction, and it might. But you know who it’s more likely to unnerve? The Euros. Seve, God bless him, was once their emotional catalyst. Why can’t Tiger be ours?
Don’t call this a hot take, Davis. Call it a gamble worth taking.
Before you shake your head and close this post, Davis, consider one final point: What if this is Tiger’s last chance to play on a Ryder Cup team?
We all know he’s going to be a captain someday, and we’re betting he’ll be a great one. His window to make the team, however, might be closing. He says is back is healthy, right now, but who is to say it will be healthy in Paris in two years? This might be his last dance (right. now.) and you have a shot to pick the music. An American Ryder Cup captain might never get this opportunity again. Tiger’s given us so much over the years; he’s filled our Sundays with wizardry and awe. Are you sure there isn’t a little bit left?
In a year when our nation has been torn asunder, only a stinger from its greatest sportsman can bring unity again. We’re the land of the free and the home of the brave, Davis.
Be brave. Get Big Cat back in the game, and let’s go snatch back the cup.