Gary Player: Tiger Woods thrilling the media but is he truly “back”?

Having marvelled at the performance of Tiger Woods at the PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club, where I won the 1965 US Open, I have to say it was one of the most impressive feats I have ever seen. If anyone was in any doubt about Tiger possibly returning to his former glory, those doubts were answered during the final Major championship of the year.

The sign of a great player is when they can produce the goods when the chips are down. Tiger proved that he is on his
way back to his best – what a wonderful boost it is for Ryder Cup Captain Jim Furyk who now has an in-form Tiger to hand a wildcard place to, as well as danger man Koepka to rely on. Tiger’s presence at Bellerive attracted one of the biggest crowds I have ever seen at the PGA Championship and I have to take my hat off to Koepka, who outplayed everyone in the field. He’s cool, calm and collected about everything he does – what a huge talent he is. Fit, strong and certainly looks like a champion.

Big hitters

I think Tiger himself would agree that to be truly back he needs to win and he really needs to win a Major championship. I will be pulling for him and have no doubts about his ability to do so. Although Tiger is still so unreliable off the tee, he can keep his driver in the bag at Le Golf National. The big-hitters in the USA Team can use their fairway woods and long irons to navigate the Albatros course, as many of them did at Carnoustie during The Open Championship in July. On paper, the American Team seems to have an edge over the Europeans, but they have the advantage of playing at home and have had the opportunity of playing the course many times as it hosts the Open de France – won recently by Tommy Fleetwood and Alex Noren, both of whom will be in Thomas Bjørn’s side. But while it is telling that Europe have not lost a Ryder Cup at home since 1993, if ever the Americans were to end that wait, it would surely be now.

American Major’s

Seven of the eight qualifiers for Furyk’s team have won at least one Major and the odd man out is Rickie Fowler – a world-class talent and surely a Major champion in waiting. They can choose four wild-card picks to complete the team from the likes of Woods, Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar, Zach Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Tony Finau, which would give Furyk an incredibly strong team. Although The Ryder Cup is still a few weeks away, Furyk’s Team are running into form while some of Thomas Bjorn’s Europeans are struggling, especially as the race to qualify hots up with a stalwart of previous Ryder Cups Sergio Garcia missing out on the PGA Tour’s FedExCup playoffs.
I’m not going to come out on one side or another. Home advantage counts for a great deal in The Ryder Cup and since the mid-1980s the Europeans have turned around what used to be a series of exhibition matches to one of the most captivating and competitive sporting events in the world.

Europe have proved that they are tough, resilient opponents and that they can rise to the occasion as they did at the Miracle of Medinah in 2012 when they seemed dead and buried but produced an amazing comeback to win against all the odds. It is always a great event to watch and given the talent on display this year, it will be hard to take your eyes off the action in Paris.