published Thursday, November 17th, 2011

Greeson: Can Tiger Woods recover at President's Cup

U.S. golfer Tiger Woods reacts to a put on the 3rd green during the first round of the Australian Open golf tournament in Sydney, Australia, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2011. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)
U.S. golfer Tiger Woods reacts to a put on the 3rd green during the first round of the Australian Open golf tournament in Sydney, Australia, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2011. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)
Photo by Associated Press.

It's still difficult to believe that picking Tiger Woods for the U.S. President's Cup team was the right move.

Woods is the 50th ranked player in the world and he has not won since 2008, the same year when we learned he was the No. 1-ranked playboy in the world.

He was unstoppable from 2000 to 2008, but his personal life debacle and his injuries have left him resembling golf's dominant figure in logo only.

That said, Fred Couples' controversial decision to use a captain's pick on Woods has paid huge dividends in attention for an event that until now can be described as golf's equivalent of the Goodwill Games.

Woods played in day one matches while most of us slept Wednesday night, and he played in the same group as Adam Scott and Scott's caddie Stevie Williams. As anyone who can tell you the difference between a lob wedge and a lettuce wedge can tell you, Stevie Williams is Tiger's former caddie and current critic whom Woods fired earlier this year.

The Williams-Woods saga has become a he-said, he-said battle of nitwits that devalues the grand game of golf. The fued has been lowlighted by unintended or misrepresented insults and obtuse statements like Williams saying helping Scott to a victory at Firestone in August was Williams' biggest ever -- including the 13 major championships Woods won with Williams carrying his bag. It truth, the whole thing is a bad version of "As the Wedge Turns."

That said, the face-to-face round of golf offered a true chance to see how much Tiger has returned mentally. His physical ailments played a part in his downfall, but his mental collapse is twice as puzzling and figures to be much more difficult to rebuild. Woods went seasons without missing a 5-foot putt if for no other reason than he knew he was going to make it. And we knew he was going to make. Now, no one knows.

Woods finished third last week at the Australian Open, displaying a lot of the shots and game he did before his downfall. Woods can be a great golfer again. Dude has all the shots and still hits it a mile. This week, though, is different, especially Wednesday night. This was a chance to see if Tiger can be Tiger again. (Granted, Woods has never been a "team" kind of guy, struggling in events such as this during the heights of his powers. But this feels different; Tiger needs this.)

Think about it this way: Before the collapse, if Tiger had been matched with a player or caddie that bad-mouthed him like Stevie has recently, Woods would have put an old-school, go-grab-your-persimmon-switch whipping on whoever it was. And they knew it was coming, all that was missing was Woods didn't make them go pick the branch.

In some ways, it's not unlike Mike Tyson's career path. Before losing to Buster Douglas, Mike Tyson was invincible because he believed he was invincible.

Before the 2008 car wreck and public and physical pains, Tiger Woods was invincible because he believed he was invincible. In a high-drama moment like being paired with Scott and Stevie, we get to see whether Tiger can summon anything resembling the mental strength that made him the most dominant figure in sports for a decade.

Pre-2008 Tiger would nuke Adam and Stevie and everyone else in his path; what will today's Tiger do?

about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

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