Tiger Woods notches #80 on the eve of the Ryder Cup

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Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.

Tiger Woods won the Tour Championship on Sunday for his 80th PGA Tour victory after a season in which he wasn’t sure if he’d ever play competitive golf again, let alone win. What’s your reaction to Tiger’s win, did you believe it would ever happen and how do you put it into perspective against his storied career?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): As I’ve said many times, I’m not a big fan of Tiger’s, and I only mention it again so that my comment is in its proper, non-worshipful perspective: his victory in the Tour Championship was astounding, and I can’t imagine any other golfer ever, who, faced with the same degree of adversity and negative physical prognosis, could ever come back and win a golf tournament against the best players in the world.  Except, of course, Ben Hogan.  And if Hogan’s comeback after 1951, and this weekend’s win, are any indication of what’s ahead for Tiger, then the next few years may be truly amazing and totally unexpected.  I can only hope that these last few years have given Tiger a better perspective on life, and with it, a new understanding of the value and importance of humility.

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Life Member, PGA of Canada: I walked both sides of the street. Part of me felt he was in the same situation as a rookie learning how to make cuts, finish high, deal with having the lead and finally learning how to win. On the other hand, he hasn’t won in 5 years and who could tell what he’d be able to do physically. I also said “Id never bet against Tiger. He loves the underdog role”. What I really like is the way he won. He drove the ball where it needed to be positioned with a few not so good ones. When he did drive into the garbage he elected to pitch out instead of playing like someone less experienced. His distance control with his irons is impeccable. His short game is spot-on, and his putting is outstanding. But what I really enjoyed was his course management and patience. I was amazed at how quickly the best players in the world who never heard Tiger footsteps suddenly not only heard them but succumbed to them. A lot of people me included wondered if the new breed would hear them or not. I also noticed a new, never before spoken of or seen, cute girl that Tiger embraced at the back of the 18th green. He kissed her and said, “I love you”. Happy off the course goes a long way to happy on the course.

Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): This win was impressive for a number of reasons: he’s 42; he went wire-to-wire; it was his first title in over five years; and it moved him to 13th in the world. I am going to be honest—I didn’t think he would win this year. As much as I wanted him to win, I thought he still needed to shore up a few parts of his game to get it done and that we wouldn’t see him in the winner’s circle until 2019. But the man had an incredible second half to his season after missing the cut at the US Open, and he made up that ground in a hurry. This was an incredible performance. It might not have been the greatest victory of his career—but it is one that fans will recount for years to come. And the best part is that there are no indications that it was a mere flash in the pan. Tiger legitimately appears to be back, and the sport is going to get a huge boost from it!

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): Awesome!  I’ve been waiting for 5 years for that victory, as have many.  I admit I went through times when I wasn’t sure he would make it back to the winner’s circle, but always held out hope he would. Hopefully this propels him to another stretch of dominance on tour and returning to the top ranked player in the world.  As for when I believed it would happen, it was probably about the 13th hole on Sunday!  As we all know, he isn’t as confident as he used to be, so I felt there was always a chance he would falter, but it was great to see him hold it together.  It was probably one of the biggest pressure situations he has ever faced because if he had lost, given the large lead he had on Sunday, it may have placed serious doubt in his mind if he could ever win again.  It’s a huge win for sure.  Not the biggest in his career, but up there!

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: As I’ve been saying all year, Eldrick was going to win big. Oh wait, just checked my notes. Right. I’ve been saying there was no chance he could win again. It was a stunning weekend with Eldrick putting like it was 1997 and Rory and Rose driving the ball like the Eldrick of early 2018. It was more enjoyable to watch than his earlier big wins that seemed as inevitable as this seemed improbable. As importantly, he reacted like a human being not an automaton programmed to win. Of the 80, this is the first win with genuine emotion. It ain’t a Major, but it was major.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): This was very exciting to watch and probably Top 3 or 4 among Woods’ most significant titles, not the least because it was so unpredictable and yet so anticipated. While Tiger’s performance lacked the certainty of his early career foot-on-the-throat domination of opponents, this was as close to vintage Tiger as we’re likely to see. The irons were spot on and his short game was superb. I have written many times that if Tiger can remain healthy, there’s no reason he can’t win. I fully expect him to close the gap on Jack Nicklaus’ major record now too. Passing Nicklaus may be difficult but as we’ve seen time and time again, you should never bet against Tiger.

The Ryder Cup starts Friday at Le Golf National in France with the U.S. team listed by many as the overwhelming favourite. Do you agree that the U.S. team should win easily and if not, how do you think the matches will play out?

Deeks: Yes, I think the US SHOULD win easily, but anything can happen in match play, and we’ve seen the overconfidence of the Americans sneak up and bite them in the rear before.  I don’t think it’ll be 17-11 like last time, but I could see 15-13 for the US.  I hope not, though.  Go Euro!

Schurman: Why we play the matches is because there’s always a chance. The stats favour the USA but when you look a little deeper you will find a lot of golf has been played by the USA Team and IMO could take its toll. Mickelson, Spieth, Watson and Reed are all bit off form. Tiger might suffer from a minor let-down and doesn’t have a great record here. The Euro’s have some of the same problems with Stenson, Garcia and Poulter. However, Garcia and Poulter also have the capacity to really get ‘up’ for this. One big negative for the Euro’s is the unpopularity among the players for Bjorn which is somewhat offset by very strong Vice Captains. A plus for the Euro’s is home field advantage. A plus for the USA is they only require 14 points to retain the Cup.

Kaplan: I’ve got the U.S. rolling Europe by a considerable margin. 16.5 to 11.5 sounds about right. I really hope that is not the case!

Rule: I actually don’t think they’ll win handily.  They are favoured on paper, but once again I don’t think they have the cohesiveness that the Euro’s have, and that can’t be underestimated.  In the end I do believe that the US will pull it out, but I think it will be close.  Ultimately it will be the singles matches that will make the difference.  I think it will be very close heading into Sunday.

Quinn: I say it before every Cup, so occasionally I’m right, but I don’t think the Yanks are locks to win it. The Euros have a very talented squad and on any given day, in any given match, the underdog can pull off a so-called upset. This one could easily come down to the singles and the tension could still be there late (depending on your time zone) on Sunday. Here’s to the Euros in a very close one.

Mumford: Most of us see and hear way too much American media, so everything is coloured red, white and blue. Some of the European pundits think their team will relish the underdog role on home soil and make it work to their advantage. It’s sometimes hard to separate the head from the heart but I tend to agree with them and think the Euros can give as good as they get in France. I look for it to be much closer than many on this side of the Atlantic believe it will be and ultimately a narrow European upset.

At every Ryder Cup, there is usually one player who stands out, either for their stellar record, a particularly exciting match or maybe for a blunder that costs his team the victory. Who do you think will rise above the rest to carry his team to a win (or cost them the Ryder Cup)?

Deeks: I see Paul Casey being the Euro standout, winning all his matches.  I see Tony Finau being the breakout star for the US.  I see Bubba Watson playing terribly and sobbing at the side of the green when he loses his singles match on Sunday.  Fortunately, the US will win, and this will go largely unnoticed, except by the members at Bushwood.

Schurman: For Europe, the star and/or goat could be Garcia. For the USA the key guy is Patrick Reed.

Kaplan: Koepka (AKA The Human Bulldozer) was amazing in 2016 at Hazeltine (3-1) and I have no reason to think that he won’t be just as good, if not better, this week in France. This U.S. team is outrageously stacked. It’s almost a joke. I feel bad for the Europeans.

Rule: Such a tough question because it could be anyone.  I think Alex Noren is going to show how good he really is and be the MVP for Team Europe, but it won’t be enough as Rickie Fowler wins all 5 matches and lead the US to victory.  As for who costs their team the Ryder Cup, I don’t like to think about that… unless it’s Patrick Reed. That would be fine.

Quinn: He’s been playing great golf for a couple of seasons, and on bigger stages this year, so the Cup français could be Tommy Fleetwood’s global coming out party. He has the game. On the other side, with strong hints from his struggles at the Tour Championship, this could be a bad — even embarrassing — weekend for Phil.

Mumford: Rory McIlroy may be the most puzzling player on either team, but I think he’ll take over from Garcia and Poulter as the emotional leader on the European side and pair that up with some dazzling on-course play too. For the Americans, I look for Jordan Spieth to find his game and he and Rickie Fowler to be their inspiration. Everybody will be “up” for these matches but some players were really struggling with their game at the end of the season, Phil and Sergio in particular. Wouldn’t it be fun to see the outcome of the Ryder Cup come down to those two in the final singles match on Sunday?

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