September 25, 2018

From Winning the Tour Championship to Arriving at the Ryder Cup

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Tiger Woods played his first practice Tuesday at Le Golf National in preparation for the Ryder Cup Matches.

Woods is still processing what he accomplished Sunday when he won the Tour Championship, his first victory on the PGA Tour in five years. It was the 80th triumph of Woods’ career and seemed unlikely a year ago after he underwent back surgery for the fourth time and fell to No. 1,999 in the Official World Golf Ranking.

At age 42, he’s a champion again.

“I haven’t really had a lot of time to soak it in,” said Woods, who played with Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed and Phil Mickelson. “Post-Ryder Cup, it will be a different story. I’ll look back and soak it up, and really reflect on what really transpired that entire week.”

Woods led from start to finish at East Lake Golf Club in the final event of the FedExCup Playoffs, producing what many are calling the greatest comeback in sports history. He posted rounds of 65-68-65-71 to beat Billy Horschel by two strokes.

On Saturday, Woods took control of the tournament during a furious front nine run that saw him card five consecutive birdies and blaze a 5-under-par 30. He never lost the lead.

The scene at No. 18 on Sunday was incredible. Thousands of spectators engulfed Woods and playing partner Rory McIlroy as they approached the green, many chanting Tiger’s name. He fought off tears before tapping in for a last-hole par, the fans roaring their approval.

“Honestly, I think you just literally had to get lost in that moment that was happening,” said Tommy Fleetwood of England, who watched from the clubhouse. “I stood on the balcony, I got to watch Rosey (Justin Rose) two-putt and win the FedExCup; and then watched Tiger win on his comeback. In the space of 12 minutes, it was just such a great time in golf, and I really thought it was amazing.”

Fleetwood wasn’t the only one.

Woods’ performance was watched around the world and drew instant reaction from athletes and non-athletes on social media. His cell phone blew up.

“I’m trying to return the text messages I’ve gotten, but I’m still well north of 150,” Woods said.

NBC announced overnight ratings were up 206 percent from last year’s final round of the Tour Championship. The telecast drew a 5.21 rating, the highest of any non-major this year. From 5:30 to 6 p.m. ET, it peaked at 7.19, trailing only the Masters (11.03) and the PGA Championship (8.28) in 2018.

It was the most-watched FedExCup Playoff event since the inception of the competition in 2007.

Following the trophy presentation and media obligations, Woods went to a hotel near the airport for a team dinner with his Ryder Cup teammates before the group flew on the team plane to Paris. He is competing for the eighth time and has played in 33 matches, sitting out only once.

“There’s a lot of nerves,” he said. “It’s excitement. I mean, it really is. “It’s something we don’t get to experience in that regard because basically it’s the final round of a tournament on the very first hole and every match you tee it up. It’s a different atmosphere and one we obviously love.”

Woods last played in the Ryder Cup in 2012 and will try to help the U.S. win in Europe for the first time in 25 years.

“Hopefully that will change this week,” said Woods.

Following Tuesday’s practice round, Mickelson praised Woods’ game.

“Tiger striped it,” he said. “This is the best I think I’ve ever seen him swing the club.”

In 2016, Woods served as a vice-captain for the American squad and was selected by team captain Jim Furyk for that role this year. But Woods’ preference was to return as a player and he earned a wild card spot with his fine play in 2018, posting seven top-10 finishes in 18 starts.

“To have earned my way onto to the team, to have not only the captain, vice captains but players want me on the team because I was picked, means a lot to me,” said Woods.

The opening ceremony is Thursday, followed by three days of competition. Morning and afternoon sessions will be held Friday and Saturday featuring four matches between two-man teams. The format is fourballs (better ball) in the morning and foursomes (alternate shot) in the afternoon. On Sunday, 12 singles matches will be played.

A total of 28 points are available and the U.S. needs 14 to retain the trophy.

Golf Channel will carry the opening ceremony on Thursday from 11 a.m. to noon ET. On Friday, it will show live coverage from 2 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET. On Saturday, Golf Channel will provide coverage from 2-3 a.m. ET, then it shifts to NBC from 3 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET. On Sunday, NBC will provide final day coverage from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET.