Plenty of Ryder Cup incentive for Woods in Wales
London: For a hatful of reasons, world number one Tiger Woods is almost certain to be hungrier than ever before to make an impact at next month`s Ryder Cup.
Although he will be making his sixth appearance in the biennial competition, this year marks the first time he failed to qualify automatically for the team and therefore had to rely on a captain`s pick.
That fact alone should be enough incentive for Woods, a supremely proud sportsman, to prove his worth for the United States against Europe at Celtic Manor in Wales from Oct. 1-3.
On top of that, the 14-times major winner is eager to add gloss to a 2010 campaign which has been largely unsuccessful.
Woods has yet to win on the PGA Tour in 11 starts this season, his worst record since he turned professional in 1996, and has struggled for form since his private life unravelled at the end of last year amid revelations of serial philandering.
However, he has shown signs in recent weeks that his game is improving and, with his confidence boosted by new swing coach Sean Foley, he will certainly want to keep that momentum going at the Ryder Cup.
"I`m pleased at the progress I`ve made in my game working with Sean," Woods told reporters on the eve of his title defence at this week`s BMW Championship in Lemont, Illinois.
"That`s been nice ... to be able to go out there and hit the golf ball the way I know I can, know the fixes and understand the concept. I`ve just got to keep building."
In his last two PGA Tour events, Woods tied for 12th at The Barclays and finished joint 11th at last week`s Deutsche Bank Championship.
At the Deutsche Bank Championship, he closed with three successive rounds in the sixties, the first time he has achieved the feat since the 2009 Tour Championship.
"I feel like my game is not very far away and that makes it a lot easier going into a pressure-packed environment like that (of the Ryder Cup)," said Woods, who was one of four wildcard picks announced by US captain Corey Pavin on Tuesday.
Comfortably the best player of his generation, Woods has never come across publicly as a passionate participant at the Ryder Cup.
He has a losing record in both the foursomes (3-6-1) and fourball (4-6-0) formats and has made the case that the game`s greatest players are remembered for performances in the majors and not in team golf.
However, like any great player, Woods has intense distaste for losing in any form of golf and, after his spot on the US Ryder Cup team was confirmed, he spoke about his long-time passion for the biennial competition.
"I`ve always loved playing the Ryder Cup," the 34-year-old said. "I`ve always enjoyed being a part of the team. I don`t know where the perception of indifference is, because I`ve always loved it.”
"The team bonding that occurs, getting to know the guys and everyone there that`s associated with our team, are experiences that you`ll never forget. I`ve created some great friendships because of it."
The biggest difference for Woods this year is that he will be going into a Ryder Cup as a wildcard pick on the 12-man US team without the aura of invincibility he once enjoyed.
In many ways, he will be just like any other golfer at Celtic Manor and his playing record this season is certainly very ordinary compared to some of his team mates.
Yet Woods insists he will not have a different mindset as he prepares for this year`s Ryder Cup.
"I`m part of the team and honoured to be part of the team, looking forward to going over there and playing and competing and hopefully bringing back the Cup," he said.
"Whether I was a person who was picked or a person who earned their way on the squad, it doesn`t change the overall goal. It`s still the same and that`s to go over there and win."
Whatever Woods says, next month`s Ryder Cup will be very different for him and it could well turn out to be his most successful as he has several points to prove regarding his own game and his perceived role as a team player. Time will tell.