Love springs surprise by installing Woods as vice-captain
Tiger Woods was last night named as vice-captain for next September's Ryder Cup, causing a huge stir in professional golf and strengthening the suspicion that this is the end of the 14-time major-winner as a competitive power.
Despite the US captain Davis Love III - and, Woods himself - claiming that the aim is to have him as "a playing assistant" at Hazeltine, the news was inevitably greeted with the belief that Woods has all but given up being fit to face the Europeans on the Minnesota fairways. For the player who never admitted defeat, this will be seen as a significant concession.
Nobody expected Love - the 2012 captain who has been entrusted with the role again to win back a trophy the US have won only once in the last seven attempts - to hand Woods the role this early in the process. Woods has been sidelined since undergoing a second back operation in September and it is feared that the player, now ranked 384th in the world, will struggle to return for the Masters in April.
Yet, although the prognosis is grim, to hear Woods being listed alongside Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk - with Tom Lehman being confirmed as Love's first deputy, - seemed a significant nail in the 39-year-old's competitive coffin.
For his part, Woods sounded chracteristically optimistic, if not only slightly deluded.
"Once I'm fully healthy, I'd like to try to make the team too, but either way, I'm very excited to work with Davis, the other vice-captains and the players to get a US victory," said Woods.
Love believes this early call gives the United States an advantage.
"These three guys, joining Tom Lehman, will send a message to our team that we are really serious about this Ryder Cup," Love said during a news conference on the eve of the PGA Tour event which he hosts at Sea Island in Georgia.
"They'll also be my eyes and ears from event to event next year on Tour.
"That's invaluable. We are ahead of the game this time and it lets potential team members know that we are going to do whatever it takes to put them in the best position to win."
The revelation made a splash here in Dubai, where Rory McIlroy is seeking to win his third European Tour order of merit title in four years. McIlroy is only 1,613 points ahead of Englishman Danny Willett, with 1,330 points on offer to the winner of the DP World Tour Championship. The pair play together in today's first round but there are another five players who could yet win the Race To Dubai bonus.
Another Englishman in Justin Rose, is third in the standings and with victory on the Earth Course this week would only require McIlroy and Willett to finish outside the top three to prevail while Ireland's Shane Lowry, the South Africans Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace as well as the Korean Byeong-Hun Un also have a theoretical chance of joining the likes of Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie in lifting the coveted Harry Vardon Trophy. (© Daily Telegraph, London)