12 Dec 2019 | Professional golf |

Tiger of old blessing and a curse

by Mark Hayes

Tiger Woods on day one of the Presidents Cup.
Tiger Woods on the 12th on Thursday at the 2019 Presidents Cup. (Photo: Golf Australia/Justin Falconer)

Tiger Woods’ impact on this Presidents Cup will not be measured in raw numbers alone. Six birdies in 15 holes, though, will be two numbers that will give opposing captain Ernie Els fits.

The long-time world No.1 firstly put any doubts about his form or fitness aside as he and Justin Thomas brushed aside Marc Leishman and Joaquin Niemann 4&3 to win the opening point of the week.

Aside from the obvious, the Tiger of old raised greater problems for Els.

He effectively took the crowd right out of the equation, which was doubly effective for the Americans against the only Victorian in the field who has a huge support base.

He arguably played as well as any “captain’s pick” has ever played in the Presidents Cup. And Els’ worst fear: the “home” crowd could do nothing but marvel at the game’s greatest drawcard, almost as is they subliminally drawn into barracking for him.

Woods did it early. And he did it often.

His perfect opening drive set up a 30m flip shot that he expertly ran to within concession range showing the touch of a man who grew up on the Sandbelt, not the spasmodic – albeit learned – visitor he has been.

He played a flashy low cut to the front of the par-five second to set up the winning birdie; soon enough he would chip in from the bank right of the short par-three fifth and seemingly instruct Thomas to “go get the ball” from the hole as the pair celebrated.

A spectacular long bunker shot on the 11th set up birdie four, and another laser short iron on the par-three 14th put the International combo on the brink. And one more quality Tiger up-and-down on the 15th finally broke their spirit.

It was precisely what many had come to see, but just don’t count Els among those numbers.

Thomas, himself the world No.4, was asked what had worked well for him.

“Tiger,” came the most accurate and succinct answer of the week.

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