| The secret lies in Tiger’s personality, feels Jack Nicklaus
Cape Town: The demeanour of Tiger Woods showed his intentions at Fancourt’s Links course last week.
Woods, 27, as competitive as ever, looked more like a team player for the United States during the fifth Presidents Cup against the Internationals than he usually does at a Ryder Cup.Of course, the cocoon-like focus was still there, plus that burning desire to win.
But that broad smile, so often buried deep during a Ryder Cup, was a lot more evident and Woods was frequently seen joking with his good friend and playing partner Charles Howell III, along with other US team members.
Before last year’s Ryder Cup at the Belfry, the world’s No. 1 player insisted on dawn starts for his practice rounds in a bid to be well away from the course by the time the crowds had swelled.
Not so at Fancourt, where he practised with his teammates as per the competition schedule, to the full appreciation of huge galleries that swarmed across the par-73 Links course.
Non-playing US captain Jack Nicklaus always knew Woods would be dedicated to the team cause, but even he was surprised by the day-early arrival of the eight-time Major winner.
Woods has never thrived in team competition, where he is not the sole architect of his own fortune out on the course.
His record in Presidents Cup fourball matches now stands at no wins from six outings, while at the Ryder Cup he has won just twice in six starts. Nicklaus, however, has never doubted the level of his top player’s commitment in Presidents Cup competition.
“You have to understand Tiger’s personality a little bit,” he said. “Tiger hates to lose and he gets so mad at himself that he just absolutely wants to explode.
“Now most of the time...if you’ve ever watched him play, when that happens to him, he usually comes back with about 63 the next day.”
Woods certainly stormed back on Sunday, displaying his best form of the week to outplay world No.3 Ernie Els 4 and 3 in their long-awaited head-to-head in the last-day singles and then tough out their playoff.
Although Woods lost both fourball matches at Fancourt, he won both his foursomes with Howell before stretching his unbeaten singles record in the Cup to 3-0.
Going into the last day, Nicklaus knew Woods was as ready as he could be. The game’s leading player had told assistant US captain Jeff Sluman on Saturday morning he was “about to explode” after losing his second fourball outing of the week.
“That’s just Tiger and that’s good,” Nicklaus said. “That’s what a competitor is all about. That’s why he’s so good because he’s so hard on himself.
“I was hard on myself, I just absolutely wanted to tear my head off,” added Nicklaus, who won 18 Majors.