Tiger Woods has endured two tough runner-up finishes in majors at Hazeltine, but he could be reduced even further, to sandwich delivery man, at the Ryder Cup here this week.
Woods, the 14-time major winner who is set to return next month after more than a year off due to a back injury, is serving as an assistant to US captain Davis Love at this week’s 41st edition of the US-Europe team golf showdown.
“We’re dividing responsibilities,” Love said of himself and his assistants. “I’m in charge and I’ve given (the assistants) their charge. Tiger was giving me a hard time a couple weeks ago. He said, ‘You’re giving me way too much to do.'”
Former world number one Woods could find himself with some unusual duties given Love’s desire to make sure his players have anything and everything they need to help them win.
“We’re all having fun and just supporting the team,” Love said. “If that means we run back and get a sweater, I’ll go get a sweater.
“My son and I just delivered turkey sandwiches to the group ahead. I said, ‘Very important here. If we don’t get the turkey sandwiches to these guys, they’re not going to be happy.’ All six of us are doing whatever we can to help out.”
Just the notion of having Woods, one of the greatest players ever at his peak, bringing him a sandwich was a wild notion for the newest major champion, US player Jimmy Walker, who won the PGA Championship in July.
“I hope guys are asking him to run and go get stuff for them, even if they don’t want it. I think that’s just great,” Walker said.
Long-hitting teammate J.B. Holmes said he thought Woods was prepared to come through in whatever way needed.
“Well, he’s a team player, and if that’s what needed to be done at the time, I’m sure he’d make sure it gets done,” Holmes said. “It’s great to have him out here, with all the experience that he’s had. An icon. It’s amazing to have him in the team room. It’s just the right atmosphere. It has been a lot of fun.”
Woods birdied the last four holes but lost by one stroke at the 2002 PGA Championship at Hazeltine to unheralded compatriot Rich Beem.
Seven years later, the same event was back at Hazeltine and Woods was going for a wire-to-wire victory and a 15th major title. But for the first time as a 54-hole leader, Woods lost a major, shooting a 75 and falling by three shots to South Korean Yang Yong-Eun, the first Asian man to win a major crown.
This week, Woods strolled the 18th with Walker in a more casual manner.
‘We were just golf nerds’
“We’ve hung out, we talked walking up the 18th the other day,” Walker said. “We just talked golf. He was into the equipment and what’s going on and what I was hitting and the shots I was hitting. We were just golf nerds. We just kept talking about golf the whole time.
“I think he’s enjoying it, I really do. He looks like he’s having a great time. He has been having a great time at night. I think he’s happy to be here and happy to be a part of it.”
US teammate Matt Kuchar, the Rio Olympic bronze medalist, is happy to have Woods around as well.
“I’ve become good friends with Tiger, played a number of practice rounds and enjoyed the time where I get to pick his brain,” Kuchar said. “I’ve tried to see what sort of help, advice, knowledge, he could pass on, and he’s always been very helpful. Always been very giving. Here is a guy who is willing to help out if I have any sort of questions on anything.”