By Simon Evans
DUBLIN, Ohio (Reuters) – For one of the most successful individual sportsmen of his generation, Tiger Woods certainly enjoys the novelty of being part of a team.
The world number one, who last week was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year, says he is thoroughly enjoying the banter in the United States’ locker room ahead of this week’s Presidents Cup at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio.
“It’s fun because it’s a good group of guys. We all take a pretty good ribbing, and it’s constant,” Woods, who highlighted PGA Championship winner Jason Dufner and world number eight Matt Kuchar as sources of much of the humor, said on Tuesday.
“You wouldn’t expect the things that come out of (Dufner’s) mouth. Kuch is the same way. They are pretty funny guys and you just don’t expect … you expect the unexpected with those two.”
More importantly though, to Woods the competitor, is the mix of experience and talent on the United States team that makes them favorites to beat the International team for a fifth straight time in the biennial tournament.
“We have got a lot of players who have been on these teams before. I believe ‑‑ I think Jordan (Spieth) is the only rookie on here. Everyone has played on teams prior to this, whether Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup, and that certainly helps,” said Woods.
“Some of us have been on the team for a very long time. Phil (Mickelson) has been on here for 20 years or so. I’m not too far behind him. We’ve got some older players with Stricks on here, and with Jordan and the youth, it’s a great balance.”
The 12-man U.S. team boasts six of the world’s top 10 players compared to the Internationals, whose highest ranked player after world number two Adam Scott is Jason Day (16).
For Woods, that kind of depth has been behind the American domination of the tournament.
“One of the reasons why our record is pretty good in this event is that if you look at the top 10 guys who are in their spots (on the team), they are ranked pretty high, generally in the top 10 in the world, maybe top 25, all 10 guys, and sometimes even 12 guys,” said Woods.
“And we are very deep. Because every player has to play every day, I think our depth helps. We are not just top‑loaded and I think that certainly has helped us in the Presidents Cups over the years.”