Woods | Iain Carter

Woods | Iain Carter

This may seem golf’s silly season. Many of the biggest names are competing in a limited field jamboree in the Bahamas and next week’s Presidents Cup is a team event well short of the Ryder Cup in significance.

But there remains an importance to current proceedings and a resonance that bodes extremely well. And it is no surprise that the driving force comes from Tiger Woods.

The seventeen other stars currently gathered for the Hero World Challenge at the Albany course are there because Woods is the host. It is his event and no coincidence that the authorities decree it worthy of world ranking points.

The field is largely made up of the next week’s US American Presidents Cup team which is captained, of course, by you know who. At the end of this year Woods turns 44 but it is clear he remains as important as ever.

It does not harm that he is the reigning Masters champion and won in his last official outing, in Japan, to tie Sam Snead’s record of 82 PGA Tour victories. What is more, he is fighting fit.

How many times have we gone through this week in the Bahamas pondering Woods condition? He has previously made comebacks from long term injury at this event or only been fit enough to be a mere ceremonial host.

But this time there are no such issues. The latest bout of injuries, which required surgery to his left knee at the end of August, are behind him.

He proved that with his performance in Japan less than three months later, a win that was more significant than just tying Snead’s record.

Never mind that it was borne out of supreme ball striking and Ian Poulter told me that when he warmed up next to the American it was the best he had ever seen from him.

The win also told us that Woods is going to be a factor going forward. When he is in the mix viewing figures go through the roof and golf gets much more attractive.

We should, by now, know what the network television arrangements will be in the United States from 2022 onwards. The announcement was expected a few weeks ago.

It was suggested to me a couple of days ago, by a well placed US television source, that the delay is down to Woods’ renewed potency. Suddenly these TV packages look rather more worthwhile and rights fees may have risen accordingly.

This source mimed the action of a piece of paper being ripped up, indicating the need for figures to be revised upwards. The word is the rights are going to involve massive sums.

We should find out more after the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne next week.

This match between the Americans and the Internationals - a team comprising the rest of the world outside Europe - is nothing compared with the Ryder Cup. But this one is going to resonate like none before.

Woods is the US skipper, not only that, he playing so well he has picked himself in the team. Once again, he is the focal point. Isn’t he always?

How will he cope with his joint roles? Who will he partner? Who will he send out together in the other partnerships? How much might Steve Stricker learn ahead of next year’s Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits?

This will be a Presidents Cup that will be worth watching, even though the time difference is not exactly convenient for European audiences.

Spare a thought for Ernie Els, the captain of the International side. The big South African’s career was savagely eclipsed by Woods just when Els was at the height of his powers.

Woods’ brilliance when he was accumulating 14 of his 15 majors between 1997 and 2008 was too much for all his rivals, but it was probably Els who suffered most. 

As a 27 year old Els won his second US Open in the same year that Woods won his first Masters. The man they call the “Big Easy” because he made golf look so effortless thereafter only added majors with Open wins in 2002 and 2012.

This was someone destined to win way more than only four of the championships that define careers and the man who did most to undermine such huge promise was Woods.

They went head to head so many times and the American always seemed to come out on top. I specifically remember the craft of Woods game leaving Els in his wake when they played together at the 2006 Open at Hoylake.

It left a lasting impression on both players with only one of them going from strength to strength.

So no one will be more motivated than the Internationals captain at next week’s Presidents Cup. How Els would love to inspire his underdog team to turn over the Americans for only the second time in the history of the matches.

There is historical precedent, the internationals only win came at Royal Melbourne back in 1998 but the last time they were there, the US prevailed by a comfortable four points in 2011.

There is such a feel good factor around Woods at the moment, you would expect him to inspire yet another US win but Els will have other ideas.

It provides for a fascinating climax to the golfing year. Who said we were into the silly season? That is, after all, impossible when Tiger is at the heart of the action.

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