As the U.S. Ryder Cup team took shape a year ago, it was a no-brainer for Corey Pavin to make Tiger Woods a captain's pick. Tiger (below) was making progress with his game and confidence, and would play three FedEx Cup events in the short run-up to the matches in Wales. And he was still Tiger Woods. Got to pick him.
A year later, Fred Couples finds himself in a similar position: Should he pick Tiger for the Presidents Cup? But this is not the same Tiger. He has made only eight starts this year, and he's in search of a caddie, a repeatable swing and his confidence. Couples seems committed to Tiger, but I don't see how he can pick him at this point. Tiger's aura of invincibility has all but disappeared. He hits less than half of the fairways, is 167th in sand saves and 67th in putting.
Upsides? Woods is 9-2-1 in foursomes, a U.S. weakness. He still makes nearly four birdies a round and has the needed experience. Woods also has time before the Nov. 18--20 matches in Australia to turn things around. If I am Couples, I only pick Tiger if he agrees to play at least three Fall Series events. Tiger says he needs reps, so why not get them in places that have been good to him in the past—Vegas (his first win) and Disney (he's won there, too) and then either Fry's or McGladrey. Tiger is no longer above playing what are seen as smaller events. His presence would be a boost for the Tour, especially as it finalizes TV negotiations, and a rare thrill for the loyal fans and sponsors at those events. Tiger would get in his much-needed competitive rounds before the matches and justify Couples's pick.
Dottie Pepper is a 17-year LPGA veteran and an analyst for NBC.
ROBERT BECK (PEPPER)
ROBERT BECK (WOODS)