Tiger Woods has told his players to call him any time of the day or night with ideas as he takes on the “eye-opening” role of captain for the United States team at December’s Presidents Cup.
Not only is Woods making his debut as a captain, but his form this season – a 15th major title at the Masters and a record-equaling 82nd PGA Tour win – has persuaded him to pick himself as a player on the 12-man squad that will take on Ernie Els’ International team in Melbourne, Australia.
The former world No.1 was reflecting on the challenge of leading a team rather than just concentrating on own game during a select series of interviews in Jupiter, Florida.
“It’s open dialogue between all my players and vice captains, I want their opinions at all times, keep it coming in,” the 43-year-old told CNN World Sport’s Don Riddell before opening up about how he has never liked the fame that comes with being one of the most revered sports stars on the planet.
“I don’t care what time of the day it is, if you have a thought, send it; Have a thought, pick up the phone and call me.
“None of us want to finish second so we’re going to do whatever we can to prepare to win.”
Woods, who has played in eight Ryder Cups between 1997 and 2018, was vice-captain for the Presidents Cup team at Liberty National in 2017 and for Davis Love’s Ryder Cup side at Hazeltine in 2016 when he was struggling with his long-term back injury.
The American, who has won 13 and lost 21 of his 37 Ryder Cup matches, says he never realized how much more goes into being part of the backroom staff, rather than as a player.
“Seeing the detail that goes into that – as a player, you play,” he said. “You get put together with a partner, you have 18 holes to figure out how to win more holes then they do and win a match and win a point for your team. It’s not complicated.
“When you’re a vice-captain and ultimately a captain you have more duties and more things to take into consideration. That was pretty eye-opening – how many moving parts there are.
“Management of personality and people and the surrounding cast; it was a lot more than I had originally thought and it was eye-opening as a player who had played all those years. I enjoyed it and learned a lot.”
’Young man’s game’
Woods named himself last of his four captains picks alongside Tony Finau, Gary Woodland and Patrick Reed to join the eight automatic qualifiers.
But the world No.7 said the decision to play as well as captain the side was only a recent decision following last month’s Zozo Championship win in Japan to equal Sam Snead’s record for most PGA Tour titles.
That’s despite the constant “chirping” from Fred Couples, one of his vice-captains alongside Zach Johnson and Steve Stricker, that he should play.
However, Woods is adamant his surgically repaired body – – he had a spinal fusion procedure on his long-term back injury in 2017 and the latest in a series of knee operations in August – will only allow him to play only some of the five sessions of match play in Melbourne.
“I don’t play five sessions any more, I just don’t. It’s a young man’s game,” he added.
“The first time was in 2012 [in the Ryder Cup] at Medinah where I didn’t – my back was toast and I told captain Davis Love, ‘hey, I can’t go in the afternoon on Saturday’. I was on the treatment table the entire time, my back was done.
“Four is probably maximum and maybe two or three. We have plenty of time to figure that out.”
Price of fame
Expanding the conversation, Riddell asked Woods his attitude to fame.
“I don’t like it. I never have liked it,” he replied. “There are friends of mine who are multi billionaires, very successful. They have awesome planes and mega yachts and unbelievable homes and make billions of dollars, and no one has a single clue when they’re walking down the street.
“As a sports figure we are on TV a lot, our faces are more recognizable. [Golfers] are more viewable, more accessible than a lot of athletes, that’s part of the territory.”
Given his glittering career, and roller coaster back story – from driven phenom to scandal and divorce; from loss of form and career-threatening injury, through medication addiction and redemption at Augusta – Riddell asked Woods what is the one more thing he would like to achieve.
“Just keep playing, just keep enjoying,” he said. “Because there was a time that was not a reality so I’m enjoying this opportunity. I don’t know how long it’s going to be, how long I’m going to be doing it for. However long that is, I’ll keep giving my best and when it’s time to quit I would have said I’ve had a great career.”
The Presidents Cup runs from December 12-15 at Royal Melbourne. The USA is defending champion and has won 10 of the previous 12 events since its inception in 1994.