Irwin's advice for Woods as a Presidents Cup playing captain
November 07, 2019
By Bob McClellan, PGATOUR.COM
- November 07, 2019
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Hale Irwin is the only man on earth who knows what it’s like to be a playing captain in a Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup, but Tiger Woods will make it a two-man club for the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne in December.
Irwin, 74, helmed the U.S. team in the inaugural Presidents Cup in 1994 at the age of 49. He went 2-1, including a victory in singles, as the United States crushed the International team 20-12. Irwin made the team on points in the 10th and final spot.
To be fair, it was a depleted International squad; Greg Norman (illness), Ernie Els (other tournament), Jumbo Ozaki (other tournament) and Tommy Nakajima (other tournament), all qualifiers for the International team, didn’t play.
The last playing captain in a Ryder Cup was Arnold Palmer in 1963.
“I was eligible as a player and the TOUR asked me if I wanted to be captain and I said I want to be a player first,” Irwin, the winningest player in PGA TOUR Champions history, said this week. “If you need another captain, go ahead.”
Irwin had some advice for Woods, who no doubt has considered his playing captaincy from all sides.
“He has to be careful because as a captain you have some duties and leadership to provide and as a player you have a responsibility to play to your potential,” Irwin said. “Obviously Tiger is playing very, very well right now, but you have to measure what you can do as a player and a captain.”
Woods’ record in the Presidents Cup far outshines his record in the Ryder Cup, as does the record of the United States in the team competition. The U.S. team is 10-1-1 in the Presidents Cup; it is 3-9 in the past 12 Ryder Cup matches. Woods is 24-15-1 in eight Presidents Cup appearances; he is 13-21-3 in eight Ryder Cups.
“I don’t want to say Tiger doesn’t have a good record but you look at his match-play record through the years … and I think the other players, they really get up to play against Tiger, as well they should. He’s such a dominant player. He provides fodder for other players because of his record and how good he is. But as a captain he also can take his energy and wisdom and skills and apply it and hopefully draw the best out of his players. It’s a fine line.”
PGA TOUR Champions player Jeff Maggert was a member of Irwin’s U.S. team in 1994. It was his first such team; he barely missed making the 1993 Ryder Cup team and was not chosen as a captain’s pick for that event.
The ’94 U.S. team was heavy on veterans, such as Jay Haas (40), Loren Roberts (39), Scott Hoch (38) and Tom Lehman (35). The only players younger than Maggert, who was 30 at the time, were Davis Love III (by a couple of months) and Phil Mickelson, who was 24. It also was Mickelson’s first appearance in a team event.
“I think those guys (on the U.S. team) who played all those Ryder Cups, they didn’t think it was that big of a deal being a captain and playing,” Maggert said. “No one really thought anything about it.
“The other thing, if I remember right, they played five matches instead of four matches each day, and everyone was getting a chance to play. There wasn’t as much emphasis on strategy or who played with whom.”
Maggert figured Woods would have little trouble balancing his captaincy with his playing responsibilities. He said the problems might come after the event.
“The only issue is usually what people will say if they don’t win,” Maggert said. “Oh gosh, Tiger never should have tried to play and be captain. And if they win they will say that was cool that he played and captained.”