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Tony spoke to former Reuters golf correspondent Tony Jimenez to look back at the USA’s victory in last week’s Presidents Cup:
“That was the most united American golf team I’ve ever seen. The passion was simply oozing out of those guys and player-captain Tiger Woods must take a great deal of credit for that.
His side were desperate to win, you could see that clearly. You could see they really wanted to do it for Tiger, they didn’t want to let him down.
These team events in golf always fascinate me. I remember Rory McIlroy saying, before he made his debut in the competition, that he thought the Ryder Cup was just an exhibition match. But he knows now, having played in a few of them, that they are anything but.
The Ryder Cup, the Presidents Cup, they’re both the real deal for the players. It’s as serious as a heart attack when you’re in the thick of the action. There really is no better arena in which to showcase your skills.
Tiger probably had a similar mindset to Rory back in the day as far as team events are concerned. But a lot of water has passed under his bridge in the last 10 years, good and bad, and that sort of stuff changes you as a person.
I don’t think that Tiger would have been capable of carrying out the role of captain a decade ago because you need a bit of experience to hold that position.
It was clear to see that his players went out on to the course at Royal Melbourne last week desperate to show respect for what their captain has achieved in the game. It’s the ultimate respect and they wanted to make damned sure they didn’t lose.
I felt a bit sorry for Ernie Els, the captain of the International team. The format of the Presidents Cup favours the best players, the best side. It’s a longer event than the Ryder Cup and I think one less match in each of the first three days would have levelled the playing field a bit more.
Past captains have tried to address the format of the Presidents Cup. I know for sure that Nick Price wanted the event to copy the schedule that the Ryder Cup favours. It’s one of the big differences between the two competitions.
In my four matches as Europe’s Ryder Cup captain, one of the most interesting elements was the battle to try and outsmart and outwit your opposite number in terms of where to place your foursomes and fourballs combinations in the draw, and also where to position your players for the last-day singles.
The Americans were trailing going into the singles and that was a big statement of intent by Tiger to put himself out first against Mexico’s Abraham Ancer.
It could be fair to say that Tiger is now back to being the best player in the world again. He’s swinging the club beautifully, he’s still a wonderful putter and Ancer, in truth, had no answer.
Tiger has sometimes been below his best in these team events and I reckon it must have been difficult for him. I remember when I was captain and Seve Ballesteros was my superstar player. He had won multiple Majors but he never won a US Open and I had.
I’m sure Tiger has played under captains in the past who had never achieved anything like he had achieved and it would have been hard for him. It’s no good saying ego doesn’t come into it for a player because it definitely does.
Tiger carried the mantle of captaincy really well although I suspect he wouldn’t be a player-captain again if he had the choice. He did a great job and it was a fairytale week for him.
I think we saw Tiger maturing into that leadership role. It had his full attention and you could see how excited he was. Once he got his own matches out of the way, you could see he was champing at the bit to get back out on to the course to support his troops as quickly as possible.
We’ve never seen the sort of emotion he displayed last week from him before. It was pure and it has to be. A few years ago it was perhaps a bit contrived from him in these team events. He seemed to be dragging his feet, but there was none of that this time. He was passionate about everything he did.
It was riveting golf throughout, a proper competition, but I always knew Royal Melbourne would be a good equaliser. It’s a great layout, it doesn’t favour the big hitters and, like Augusta National, it is important to always stay below the hole. They tucked the pins away nicely and there were holes where you couldn’t just fire the ball at the flag.
It wasn’t about power, it was about positioning yourself. It was a well-rounded test of golf and everyone was in raptures about it. The people of Australia rarely see golf of that high standard.
It’s unfortunate that the Australian Open has not maintained the elevated status it had 40-50 years ago when Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player made it a big tournament.
I think it would be a good idea for the PGA Tour to take its PGA Championship to Australia. The players would be up for it if the prize money was right. That’s what it’s all about for professional golfers, after all.
They’ve certainly got some great courses down there. Yarra Yarra in Victoria and Kingston Heath in Melbourne also come to mind and there are a few good layouts in the Sydney area nowadays too, which wasn’t the case in my playing days.
I’m sure that having the PGA Championship in Australia would be a tremendous success. In fact, there are sound reasons for taking it to different countries outside of America. Taking Majors to other areas of the world would definitely help to grow the game.”