The U.S. record in Ryder Cup competition has not been impressive.
In fact, it has been lousy.
There is added pressure this time around because the competition is on U.S. soil at the Medinah Country Club in suburban Chicago. As everyone knows, when you play at home, you have the advantage of playing on a familiar course where you have had previous success.
That past success should create confidence, but when your team has failed badly, it also creates pressure.
Somebody is going to have to lead the U.S. if it is going to shake its Ryder Cup doldrums.
That player has to be Tiger Woods.
Whether you like Woods or not, you have to acknowledge his greatness. He is second to Jack Nicklaus in majors won with 14. He has won 74 tournaments and over $100 million on tour, second to Sam Snead.
As the dominant professional golfer on tour since the late '90s, he has had his share of personal and professional difficulties since winning his last major in 2008, but he had a brilliant 2012 season by all standards, except his own.
He won three tournaments, but none of them were majors. Majors are what Woods lives for. Since he was not able to bring one home, you know it wasn't the kind of year that makes Woods feel good.
Right now, however, he is the No. 2 player in the world behind Rory McIlroy.
That's impressive, but, again, it doesn't make Woods feel good.
He will feel a lot better if he can lead the U.S. team to victory in the Ryder Cup.
He will have a chance to contribute in five matches and he expects to do well after struggling in previous Ryder Cups.
“Certainly, I am responsible for that, because I didn't earn the points that I was put out there for," Woods told the press on Tuesday. "I believe I was out there, what, in five sessions each time, and I didn't go 5‑0 on our side. So I certainly am a part of that, and that's part of being a team. I needed to go get my points for my team, and I didn't do that. Hopefully, I can do that this week, and, hopefully, the other guys can do the same and we can get this thing rolling.”
Taking responsibility is the first step towards leadership, something Woods has never shied away from. He has always cared.
He is part of an excellent team of golfers. Steve Stricker (Woods' likely partner), Bubba Watson, Webb Simpson, Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner, Zach Johnson, Brandt Snedeker, Matt Kuchar, Dustin Johnson, Mickelson and Furyk are fully capable of playing spectacular golf at Medinah.
However, they are looking for a leader, someone who expects a lot of himself and has achieved a lot in the past.
That has got to be Woods. If he falls by the wayside and plays mediocre golf, it seems likely the rest of the team will follow.
If he plays razor sharp and wins early matches, look for that to lift up his teammates and make life just a tad easier against an outstanding European Ryder Cup team.
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