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Tiger Woods increasing Ryder Cup role

Once the U.S. team was set for the Ryder Cup, the running joke was that Brett Wetterich had never met Tiger Woods. By the end of last week, Woods got to know all four rookies quite well.

In another sign that Woods is taking on more of a leadership role, he took the quartet of Ryder Cup rookies to dinner Friday night at the Diamond Grill restaurant near Firestone.

"He called and said, 'Can you get me directions?"' said Mark Steinberg, Woods' agent at IMG. "Before he hung up, I told him they don't take credit cards; it was all cash. He said, 'Oh."'

Woods presumably had enough bills floating around to cover the tab.

The world's No. 1 player has never been terribly vocal about the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup teams. But the oldest player on this team is Scott Verplank (42), who is playing in his second Ryder Cup. The only player with more experience than Woods is Phil Mickelson, who has played one more team.

U.S. captain Tom Lehman said the fact Woods and Mickelson rearranged their schedules to join the charter to Ireland spoke volumes about their responsibility to help guide this team.

"It's huge," Lehman said before going to the airport Sunday night. "Both decided to do that on their own. I didn't say anything."

When asked if it sent a strong message to the other 10 Americans, Lehman replied, "It sends a strong message to the other team, too."

Woods said the charter trip -- or even the dinner with Wetterich, Zach Johnson, Vaughn Taylor and J.J. Henry -- had nothing to do with sending messages. He just wants to win.

"Our whole deal is to come together, gain experience, gain some knowledge on the golf course and be ready to play come time for the cup," Woods said. "It's not about sending messages. It's about making putts and executing, and making 2s, 3s and 4s, nothing higher."

August 30, 2006

 




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