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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Should Tiger Be Love's Last Pick?

Since last week when Matt Kuchar suggested that Tiger "was rumored" to be a possible last pick for the US Ryder Cup team -- I believe the exact quote was "That would be legend. Dary. Legendary." -- the idea has been a subject of debate in the media. Was Kuchar joking or could this be a real consideration for Davis Love?

I've been thinking about it... and I'm not so sure it's not being considered.

Before you laugh me off, hear me out.

Tiger and Davis

You've probably heard the arguments that Tiger would draw eyes to the Ryder Cup -- especially the eyes of those sports fans who rarely or never watch golf, and potentially even the curious viewers who rarely if ever watch any sport. And Tiger is supposedly aiming to return at the Safeway Open, which is only two weeks after the Ryder Cup, so some have suggested that two weeks earlier is no big deal.

Charlie Rymer pointed out that Tiger need only play one match at the Ryder Cup, that being the singles. He also suggested that Tiger could be paired with Dustin Johnson, who probably doesn't need a partner to beat most two-man teams that the Euros could field. This would give Tiger a chance to "hide" somewhat if his game wasn't as good as he hoped.

I think some of these arguments have some value. Let me explain.

Charlie's point that Tiger only needs to play one match -- and that a good partner could cover some less-than-stellar play -- does point out something important here. If Tiger comes back as planned at the Safeway Open, he'll be hoping to play four straight 18-hole rounds. But the Ryder Cup would allow for some flexibility, and Davis Love might well like these options.

Nothing says Tiger has to play five matches. He could play just the singles match, or he could add one or two other matches, one per day. Bear in mind that most matches don't go a full 18 holes. Plus four-balls would be the least demanding on his game and, with a good partner, he could hide a bit if necessary. So Tiger could play the first day, decide whether to play the second day or not based on how his back felt, then play the final round singles.

That's a maximum of three rounds, probably less than 54 holes total. It would give him a chance to ease his back into the daily grind of competitive golf, and also give him a chance to ease his mind back into the mental grind. If Tiger feels he'll be ready to play in two weeks, it would be a great way for him to come back and a real treat for the fans. And it would probably be a major emotional lift for the team, all of whom want to see Tiger back in action.

Please understand: I'm NOT saying that Tiger SHOULD be the final US pick. All I'm saying is that the idea is not as silly as it initially sounds, and that it actually offers some attractive benefits to both the US team and to the Ryder Cup as a whole.

Do I think it will happen? In a word, no. Davis Love has too many good options to choose from and, no matter who he chooses, he'll still have Tiger right there in the team room. If Tiger's focused on being a vice captain and not on playing, EVERYONE can benefit from his strategic and analytical abilities. To my mind, the team benefits more this time from his availability as a mentor than as a player.

But stranger things have happened, folks. A Tiger pick could really change the whole dynamic of the Ryder Cup for everybody, especially since it's being held here in America.

I won't be surprised at anything that happens this time around.

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