Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 28 April 2015

Ryder Cup: Warm welcome from Welsh could help Tiger Woods finally show his teeth

Europe's and USA's teams during the Ryder Cup opening Ceremony at Celtic Manor, Newport
Europe's and USA's teams during the Ryder Cup opening Ceremony at Celtic Manor, Newport
Edoardo Molinari (left-center) of the European Ryder Cup team poses with his partner Anna Roscio alongside his brother Francesco Molinari and his wife Valentina prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup Dinner at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 29, 2010 in Newport, Wales
Phil and Amy Mickelson leave the Ryder Cup opening Ceremony at Celtic Manor, Newport
Europe captain Colin Montgomerie's wife Gaynor (right) and USA captain Corey Pavin's wife Lisa (left) with other wives and girlfriends during the opening ceremony during the opening Ceremony at Celtic Manor, Newport
Lisa Pavin (left), wife of Corey Pavin, and Gaynor Montgomerie (right), wife of Colin Montgomerie during the opening Ceremony at Celtic Manor, Newport
Lisa Pavin leads out the USA team wives during the Ryder Cup opening Ceremony at Celtic Manor, Newport
USA's Zach Johnson (second left) with his wife Kim Johnson (left), Tiger Woods (centre) and Stewart Cink (right) after the ceremony during the Ryder Cup opening Ceremony at Celtic Manor, Newport
General View during the Opening Ceremony prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 30, 2010 in Newport, Wales
The European Team's wives and girlfriends pose together: (L-R) Front Row, Laurae Westwood (Lee Westwood), Holly Sweeney (Rory McIlroy), Valentina Molinari (Francesco Molinari), Gaynor Montgomerie (Colin Montgomerie), Diane Donald (Luke Donald), Allison Micheletti (Martin Kaymer), Marian Jimenez (Miguel Angel Jimenez), Back row Alison McGinley (Paul McGinley), Caroline Harrington (Padraig Harrington), Pernilla Bjorn (Thomas Bjorn), Katie Poulter (Ian Poulter), Anna Roscio (Edoardo Molinari), Alison Campbell (Darren Clarke), Sanna Hanson (Peter Hanson) and Jo Fisher (Ross Fisher) prior to the Opening Ceremony prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 30, 2010 in Newport, Wales
(L-R) Lisa Pavin, Amy Mickelson, Kandi Harris girlfriend of Hunter Mahan and Angie Watson girlfriend of Bubba Watson stand during the Opening Ceremony prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 30, 2010 in Newport, Wales
Team Captain of the USA Corey Pavin (R) and Wife Lisa, and Colin Montgomerie of Europe and Wife Gaynor lead out the players and their wives and girlfriends during the Opening Ceremony prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 30, 2010 in Newport, Wales
USA Team Captain Corey Pavin shakes hands with Stewart Cink during the Opening Ceremony prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 30, 2010 in Newport, Wales
Stewart Cink of the USA reacts after Team Captain Corey Pavin forgets to announce him during the Opening Ceremony prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 30, 2010 in Newport, Wales
Graeme McDowell of Europe plays a bunker shot during a practice round prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 30, 2010 in Newport, Wales
Graeme McDowell of Europe walks across a green during a practice round prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 30, 2010 in Newport, Wales
Vice Captains Sergio Garcia (L) and Darren Clarke chat together during a practice round prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 30, 2010 in Newport, Wales
Europe Team members Rory McIlroy (R) and Miguel Angel Jimenez walk off a tee box during a practice round prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 30, 2010 in Newport, Wales
Graeme McDowell (L) of Europe walks with team mate Padraig Harrington during a practice round prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 30, 2010 in Newport, Wales
Rory McIlroy's fans during a practice round at Celtic Manor, Newport
Team Captain of the USA Corey Pavin (R) and Wife Lisa, and Colin Montgomerie of Europe and Wife Gaynor lead out the players and their wives and girlfriends during the Opening Ceremony prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 30, 2010 in Newport, Wales
Team Captain Colin Montgomerie of Europe and Wife Gaynor stand together during the Opening Ceremony prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 30, 2010 in Newport, Wales
Team Captain of the USA Corey Pavin and Wife Lisa stand together during the Opening Ceremony prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 30, 2010 in Newport, Wales
Amy and Phil Mickelson walk together during the Opening Ceremony prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 30, 2010 in Newport, Wales
Team Captain of the USA Corey Pavin (R) and Wife Lisa and Colin Montgomerie of Europe and Wife Gaynor lead out the players and their wives and girlfriends during the Opening Ceremony prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 30, 2010 in Newport, Wales
Amy and Phil Mickelson walk together during the Opening Ceremony prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 30, 2010 in Newport, Wales
Amy Mickelson waves during the Opening Ceremony prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 30, 2010 in Newport, Wales
Luke Donald and Diane Donald attend the 2010 Ryder Cup Dinner at Cardiff Castle, on September 29, 2010 in Cardiff, Wales
Martin Kaymer and partner Allison Michelett attend the 2010 Ryder Cup Dinner at Cardiff Castle, on September 29, 2010 in Cardiff, Wales
Lee Westwood and Laurae Westwood attend the 2010 Ryder Cup Dinner at Cardiff Castle, on September 29, 2010 in Cardiff, Wales
Padraig Harrington and Caroline Harrington attend the 2010 Ryder Cup Dinner at Cardiff Castle, on September 29, 2010 in Cardiff, Wales
Ian Poulter and Katie Poulter attend the 2010 Ryder Cup Dinner at Cardiff Castle, on September 29, 2010 in Cardiff, Wales
Ross Fisher and Joanne Fisher attend the 2010 Ryder Cup Dinner at Cardiff Castle, on September 29, 2010 in Cardiff, Wales
American Ryder Cup Team Captain Corey Pavin (C) poses with America team wives as they attend the 2010 Ryder Cup Dinner at Cardiff Castle, on September 29, 2010 in Cardiff, Wales
Edoardo Molinari and partner Anna Roscio attend the 2010 Ryder Cup Dinner at Cardiff Castle, on September 29, 2010 in Cardiff, Wales
Prince Charles, Prince of Wales meets the wives and girlfriends of the European team at the 2010 Ryder Cup Dinner at Cardiff Castle, on September 29, 2010 in Cardiff, Wales
Holly Sweeney and Rory McIlroy attend the 2010 Ryder Cup Dinner at Cardiff Castle, on September 29, 2010 in Cardiff, Wales
Corey Pavin and his wife Lisa Pavin, along with members of the United States Ryder Cup team, walk onstage during Welcome To Wales at Millennium Stadium on September 29, 2010 in Cardiff, Wales
Phil Mickelson and his wife Amy Mickelson, along with members of the United States Ryder Cup team, walk onstage during Welcome To Wales at Millennium Stadium on September 29, 2010 in Cardiff, Wales
European Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie and his wife Gaynor Montgomerie arriving at the 2010 Ryder Cup Dinner at Cardiff Castle on September 29, 2010 in Cardiff, Wales
Phil Mickelson of the USA with his wife Amy Mickelson during the 2010 Ryder Cup Dinner at Cardiff Castle on September 29, 2010 in Cardiff, Wales
United States Team captain Corey Pavin with his wife Lisa Pavin during the 2010 Ryder Cup Dinner at Cardiff Castle on September 29, 2010 in Cardiff, Wales
Ryder Cup: European Team wives and girlfriends
European Ryder Cup team vice-captain Thomas Bjorn poses with his wife Pernilla prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup Dinner at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 29, 2010 in Newport, Wales
European Ryder Cup team vice-captain Paul McGinley poses with his wife Alison prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup Dinner at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 29, 2010 in Newport, Wales
Ross Fisher of the European Ryder Cup team poses with his wife Jo prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup Dinner at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 29, 2010 in Newport, Wales
Francesco Molinari of the European Ryder Cup team poses with his wife Valentina prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup Dinner at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 29, 2010 in Newport, Wales
Rory McIlroy of the European Ryder Cup team poses with his partner Holly Sweeney prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup Dinner at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 29, 2010 in Newport, Wales
Luke Donald of the European Ryder Cup team poses with his wife Diane prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup Dinner at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 29, 2010 in Newport, Wales
Miguel Angel Jimenez of the European Ryder Cup poses with partner Marian Jimenez prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup Dinner at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 29, 2010 in Newport, Wales
European Ryder Cup team captain Colin Montgomerie poses with his wige Gaynor prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup Dinner at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 29, 2010 in Newport, Wales
Martin Kaymer of the European Ryder Cup team poses with partner Allison Micheletti prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup Dinner at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 29, 2010 in Newport, Wales
Martin Kaymer of the European Ryder Cup team poses with partner Allison Micheletti prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup Dinner at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 29, 2010 in Newport, Wales
The wives and partners of the European Ryder Cup team members pose prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup Dinner at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 29, 2010 in Newport, Wales
Padraig Harrington of the European Ryder Cup team poses with his wife Caroline prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup Dinner at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 29, 2010 in Newport, Wales
The wives and partners of the European Ryder Cup team members pose prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup Dinner at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 29, 2010 in Newport, Wales
European Ryder Cup team vice-captain Paul McGinley poses with his wife Alison prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup Dinner at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 29, 2010 in Newport, Wales
European Ryder Cup team vice-captain Darren Clarke poses with his partner Alison Campbell prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup Dinner at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 29, 2010 in Newport, Wales
Rory McIlroy poses with Holly Sweeney prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup Dinner at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 29, 2010
Amy Mickelson, wife of Phil Mickelson arrives during the Ryder Cup opening Ceremony at Celtic Manor, Newport

After his months in purgatory, as both a professional sportsman and a man with a broken life, Tiger Woods was visibly warmed by the cheers that greeted his name at the opening ceremony for the 38th Ryder Cup.

The tournament starts this morning with Europe favourites to win back the gold trophy that was wrestled so roughly and easily from their grasp in Kentucky two years ago.

The reception for Woods, more enthusiastic than for any other player of either side, was a remarkable pattern-breaker at the end of build-up in which he seemed to be locked into the prospect of fresh humiliation.

He was ridiculed from the floor of an official press conference earlier this week — and asked pointed questions about the attitude of the wives of his team-mates in the wake of his serial infidelities.

He gave a series of clinical answers to a stream of questions that most seemed calculated to attack his battered self esteem.

He smiled, coldly, when he was asked how the Ryder Cup figured in his ambitions now he was almost an ordinary golfer.

But as dusk gathered it was suddenly as though someone had turned back the clock.

Woods waved and smiled perhaps from, as much as anything, pure relief. He seemed almost startled by the strength of the crowd's statement; as though he had suddenly been carried back to another time, when everything was so much more straight forward — when it was so easy to play the part of the maestro rather than renegade from the peaks of achievement and reputation.

What the Welsh fans seemed to be saying was that whatever Woods had done in his private life, however complicated he had made it, and however much he had disenchanted some of his powerhouse sponsors, he remained for them one of the world's ultimate sportsman.

It was a sentiment which flew beyond the barricades of Ryder Cup action. It said that Woods was beyond any tribal loyalties. He was somebody who could not be missed on his second visit to Wales. Right or wrong, he was still, as some continue to say, “The Man.”

As he absorbed a sense of some of this so quickly, there was a clear tug of emotion as he raised his hand in acknowledgement. He did not, however, get the perfect storm of good fortune if it is true — as some close to the US camp are suggesting — that his greatest desire these next few days is meet face to face and beat the Ulster wunderkind Rory McIlroy.

McIlroy plays in this morning's second fourball match, with his compatriot Graeme McDowell, against Matt Kuchar and Stewart Cink — a circumstance that European captain Colin Montgomerie claimed was part of his counterpart Corey Pavin's strategy to protect his famous but perhaps currently most vulnerable player.

The American response to this was was filled with ill-disguised contempt, suggesting that Pavin simply guessed wrong in placing the names of Woods and Steve Stricker against those of Ian Poulter and Ross Fisher.

Why would Pavin protect a man with 14 Majors to his name, and especially one so obviously keen to exact some retribution for McIlroy's claim that the world's number one player had come to represent one of the less demanding targets for any of the European players.

Whatever the reason for the match-up, whether it was shrewd calculation or sheer happenchance, there is no question that the first serious crescendo will come when Woods and Stricker tee off Poulter and Fisher.

“Ian Poulter is ready to play now,” claimed Montgomerie, but perhaps at the risk of inviting in the dark warning of the Tiger when he confronted a McIlroy he considered disrespectful in Chicago a few weeks ago.

“Be careful what you wish for,” said Woods.

For Montgomerie pressure is piling around his declaration that his role as captain might well prove as crucial as all those days when he performed with such consistent brilliance. It is a theory that is echoed, though, by Padraig Harrington, who insists, “this is so close that the captains are sure to play a decisive role.”

Pavin's response to such claims were relatively mild until he called up a US fighter ace to lecture his players on the need to “watch each others' backs.”

It was a move which recalled his encouragement to fans in Kiawah Island 19 years ago, when he set the tone by donning a Desert Storm cap and throwing himself into what was christened The War on the Shore.

In view of such garish behaviour, there may have been relief yesterday when it became clear the American captain's military friend had not been persuaded rustle up a stealth bomber for a Super Bowl-style fly-past.

The golf, frankly, cannot come quickly enough. At least that, suddenly, seems to be the belief of Tiger Woods.

Who knows, he may just be revived by the welcome they kept for him in the valley.

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