With just nine days until the 2018 Ryder Cup, Matthew Crist reflects on the return to form of Tiger Woods and assesses the US vice-captain's chances of producing the goods at Le Golf National in Paris next week...
"In the traditional Sunday individual format, he boasts an astonishing 75% success rate having won 50 games, lost 16 and tied two, proving that he thrives on the pressure that the one-on-one matches inevitably produce."
Woods in the team on merit
A year ago it would have seemed unthinkable that Tiger Woods could become a pivotal part of the USA's Ryder Cup team, but an impressive second-half of 2018 means that he has more than justified his inclusion as a captain's pick and could just be the difference between the two sides.
The huge galleries, the drama, the excitement and of course that famous red shirt on a Sunday; having Woods once more involved at the business end of a golf tournament has brought back plenty of memories for those of us who watched the greatest golfer of his generation in his pomp.
But the 14-time major winner hasn't just been included in the US side, who travel to Le Golf National, near Paris, for this biennial battle purely for sentimental reasons; he has deserved his inclusion on merit alone.
Woods, already named as vice-captain, was all but assured his place at the Ryder Cup when he finished second in the USPGA at the beginning of August but his road to recovery has been a long and winding one following three back operations and a dramatic loss of form.
Slipping outside of the top 1,000 players in the world, the 42-year-old has now climbed into the top 25 after a notable showing at The Open and The Valspar Championship, while his new found determination and hunger for the game can only be beneficial to Jim Furyk's side who are [1.84] to retain the trophy they claimed two years ago in Minneapolis.
And a strong sixth place finish at the BMW Championships in Pennsylvania earlier this month, helped by an eight-under par first round 62, which equalled the second-best round of his career, was enough to convince even the most ardent of doubters that he deserves to be on the plane to Paris.
Best singles record in the US team
It's not just good current form which Woods offers the US side as they prepare to do battle with their European counterparts; he goes into the showdown with the best individual career record of any player in the US side when it comes to singles match play golf too.
This could well justify his price of [11.5] to be the top US scorer, which Woods fans might find difficult to ignore.
Often accused of failing to embrace the team nature of the Ryder Cup, Woods' career record in foursomes and four-balls is a somewhat average 47% with 29 wins, 32 defeats and two ties, but in singles play he has posted more impressive numbers over his long career.
In the traditional Sunday individual format, he boasts an astonishing 75% success rate having won 50 games, lost 16 and tied two, proving that he thrives on the pressure that the one-on-one matches inevitably produce; something which was surely in Captain Jim Furyk's thoughts when it came to his selections.
Nerves of steel
Even though he's only been on the winning side once, in 1999, Woods has played in all but three Ryder Cup events since he made his tournament bow 21 years ago and perhaps it's a blessing that his recent revival has made it almost impossible for him to be discounted this time around.
Despite being well fancied to retain the cup it's been 25 years since the USA last won a Ryder Cup on European soil and they will need all the experience and know-how that Woods can bring to the table, if not purely for his individual record alone.
In his previous seven appearances Woods has been average to say the least in the first two days of competition, before going on to excel on day three as push inevitably comes to shove.
And with four victories, two halves and just one defeat in Ryder Cup singles matches the three-time WGC Match Play winner is surely the man you would want standing over a winning putt on the final day of this enthralling competition - especially when you take into account that he hasn't lost a singles match at the Ryder Cup since 1997.