Commentary

Time to ponder life after competition

PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

DUBAI • The unfortunate aspect of any move made by Tiger Woods is the instant bellowing from the back of "Why?" And it is unfortunate; the consequence of deep-rooted suspicion and closed character by the former world No. 1 going back two decades that he isn't regarded as capable of doing anything simply for a wider benefit.

This time, analysis of a Woods move does not so much surround his potentially selfish motives for making it.

Rather, his willingness to be named as a Ryder Cup vice-captain with more than 10 months before the meeting with Europe at Hazeltine inevitably boosts the notion that he has no chance of being involved as a player.

Recent whispers have suggested he is not physically well, the consequence of a second back surgery in September. But the truth is nobody, even those supposedly closest to the 14-time Major winner, truly know as to his aspirations and capabilities until Woods himself chooses to make as much known.

The spell-binding power he holds among all around him is part of his enduring allure, if arguably one of the few aspects he retains in his currently diminished state. The rest of us can at least say a few things with certainty.

If it is to be accepted, and it should be, that he cannot challenge in the upper echelons on a consistent basis any longer, then Woods needs an alternative. This will be a tough change for someone so ferociously competitive.

Woods would love nothing more than to make an apparently astonishing recovery to the point where he can tee up in the 41st Ryder Cup. It is also true that his indifference towards the competition, an emotion inevitable in part because of an individual obsession, has markedly softened.

Link the two together and the vice-captaincy position now afforded to him by Davis Love, even at this premature juncture, will hold obvious appeal. So, too, the prospect of a United States victory at long last, on home soil and boosted by youthful dynamism.

On a straightforward level, Woods should be an ideal Ryder Cup component; players in any US team will respect him.

His pull was so significant in financial terms that the class of 2016 will genuinely owe him a debt of gratitude for the riches they now pursue. He is more popular among fellow players than is widely acknowledged.

His close friendship with Darren Clarke, Europe's captain, makes for an endearing dynamic.

The flip side? An indifferent Ryder Cup record, the potential for a circus around him which upstages the captain, and the unavoidable notion that this is a self-serving move by a sporting great who realises his time is up. Barring something miraculous, approaching the greatest sporting comebacks of all time, it surely is.

The wider issue, after all, represents what his future may hold. If not already, he will soon need fresh impetus and a revised public status.

On the course, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth et al have taken golf to a level which surpasses his capabilities - even if fit - as he sits on the verge of 40. Missing cuts and slumping to varying levels of embarrassment can hold little appeal for an individual who once donned a cloak of invincibility.

If it is to be accepted, and it should be, that he cannot challenge in the upper echelons on a consistent basis any longer, then Woods needs an alternative. This will be a tough change for someone so ferociously competitive.

A willingness to connect with the Ryder Cup - commercial benefits and all - and offer the more expansive traits which were evident at times earlier this year could be the next stage of "Brand Tiger".

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 20, 2015, with the headline 'Time to ponder life after competition'. Print Edition | Subscribe