Woods could boost image with Ryder Cup exploits

"You Gotta Be Kidding!"
by Mickey Charles, CEO Sports Network

It's us against them in the Ryder Cup.

In this case, the "us" is U.S. and the "them" is Europe. The ensuing battle is not with planes, battleships, missiles or even chess or checker boards ... it is the Ryder Cup, this weekend, starting Friday, unless the rains cause complete disruption And over Monday, or sooner if the tallies dictate that one team or the other is just going through the motions on that final day. The site is the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, South Wales, and the Europeans love to be on their own turf.

Tiger Woods
Despite a mediocre season, Tiger Woods will look to provide some leadership at the Ryder Cup.
Golf is an individual sport, you against the course, all of its twists, turns, hazards and elements, if you are stout of heart and willing to brave same, just short of a tornado and anything that comes with lightning. Your clubs and that little white ball. However, the Ryder Cup is built on team play, even with one-on-one matches. Why? Because whether in denial or not, the team member is watching the scoreboard to see how his teammates are doing. That means match play, including foursomes, 2-man teams in alternate shot four-ball, 2-man teams in better ball singles and 18 holes of match play.

Americans are mentally focused on 'you against me,' and that is it. Hell, I'm not even sure if all the members of our team speak to one another on any sort of regular basis, much less socialize with one another. Not so with the Europeans. Look for them at the pub after a day out on the golf course, with all the camaraderie of centuries of doing so while reviewing what went well or wrong and strategizing for what lies ahead. Do we still win at times, as with the last outing on our turf? Sure. Are we in there now as decided underdogs? You bet, literally and figuratively.

We've won 25 times, they ten and two to a draw. But that is over years. Of late, they are better, much better, more aggressive and confident. The world wants to best the U.S. What else is new? And this among athletes that, for the most part, actually like one another and, as the sport dictates, compete as gentlemen. Point? We won last time, in 2008, at Valhalla Golf Club in Kentucky. They won five of the last six before that.

This time, with spots on the teams earned through play and others chosen by captains Corey Pavin for the U.S. and Colin Montgomerie for Europe, there are the usual array of stalwarts and then the young lions of the sport. For the Americans, the presumed "anchors" will be Stewart Cink, Jim Furyk, Phil Mickelson and, of course and by choice of Pavin, Tiger Woods.

The youngsters wearing our colors will not play with reckless abandon but they will take pages from the others and this, as I see it, is where Woods can define his return to the top and regain some badly needed stature and semblance of the respect he once held among the fans and fellow players. This is the 38th Ryder Cup, an event the US has won only twice since 1999. Are you kidding me? It was easy to say that all some were focused on was getting back to the tour and their checkbooks, the endorsements, commercials and earnings that are assured as long as one is in at least the top twenty consistently.

Does the U.S. want to win? Of course. Are they playing as well as they can? Most assuredly. Will those not playing at any given moment be walking the course with the others out there, urging them on and jumping into the air with every birdie, taking flight with an eagle achieved? You're kidding, right? But, Woods can be the critical choreographer of all this. He is the one that all will watch. Does he still have it? Can he put a monumentally disastrous personal set of circumstances and events behind him, to concentrate on golf? Will he be thinking of what might have been had he not dallied ... like his wife and children being there, cheering him on? What will his mental state be when he sees the families of the others? Does anyone on the planet have the ability to reach down into a reservoir of concentration to focus on the task at hand and bring all the talent that has been missing for months to the surface? Give me the answer to that one and the bronze statue of you will be underway moments after you read this.

Tiger Woods
One of Tiger Woods' strengths will be his distance off the tee at Celtic Manor.
Tiger Woods is playing as much for himself this time around, to a greater degree than at any time in the past, as he is for team and country. How many times has he seen that TV commercial with Michael Jordan extolling that there is no greater honor than competing for your country and no greater achievement than winning for the colors. This has to be as uncomfortable as watching them oil the electric chair for your use or making certain that the gallows rope is strong and taut. Do you test the mettle of the man by how he overcomes what he has wrought? Tough one since no one can justify, condone or approve of it in any shape, manner or form. Is there an amazing capacity and proclivity by the public to forgive most of our athletic transgressors over the years regardless of what they have done? Yes, unequivocally yes. It is an amazing public proficiency.

But amnesty and some degree of exoneration, however small, is difficult. This was family. His wife, a sensational woman on the outside, from looks to smarts to social graces, because we know nothing about the inside. Children. What could be bad about children? A lifestyle to rival anything of your dreams, realized by just a sparse few compared to the whole of the world. Smashed to smithereens with unbridled and public stupidity. All of us get one shot to ride the merry-go-round, no matter what Shirley Maclaine says, and grabbing the gold ring is not an easy task. Tiger Woods had it and the world by the tail. Now the world has him by the tail, and it smarts. How to overcome that? Go where you are most comfortable. Go where it all began. Go to what you know best, since it is certainly not marriage. Go where the forgiving public awaits, where adoration still lingers, where applause - no matter how muted - still exists. Go where a scintilla of respect might be yours from your colleagues. Go to the golf course.

It will be lonely despite the thousands lining the fairways. Lonelier still at times among your comrades and playing partners. Woods must try to overcome. He must cling to the fact that marriages whose pieces are a mixed jigsaw puzzle of parts strewn from coast to coast, country to country, just might come together slowly if he starts picking them up, one by one. It is not impossible. What he did was near unforgivable but who knows what the future holds? Can he concentrate on golf? Can Woods lift up the team this time by his own play and bring another Ryder Cup win home to the U.S.? Is the Ryder Cup about Tiger Woods, the team, the Europeans, the competition itself? That is up to him.

He is not back yet. That has been shown to us time and time again in recent months. There has to be a starting point to regain one's life as he once knew it. The Ryder Cup competition just might be that place. It is, in fact, us against them and Tiger Woods singularly against the world.

Woods only hurt himself and partially destroyed his own life. The spotlight got dimmer, quite a bit so. The question is whether or not it will get any brighter and when will that occur? Do I know for certain that this weekend is the make-or-break event? You gotta be kidding!

You gotta be kidding!

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