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Tiger Woods stepping up Ryder Cup role

World number one Tiger Woods says he is ready to take on a leadership role for the United States team in the Ryder Cup showdown with Europe later this month.

The 30-year-old American, whose dominance of world golf contrasts with his modest Ryder Cup record, has often given the impression of a peripheral figure during the biennial event and has been criticised for lacking team commitment.

"Davis (Love III) isn't on the team anymore... Jay Haas wasn't on the team, Mark O'Meara.... you know all the guys that have played multiple Ryder Cups," Woods told a news conference in London's Docklands on Tuesday.

"I think it's (Jim) Furyk, myself and Phil (Mickelson) that have played five and four (Ryder Cups) so I think all three of us are going to take on more of a leadership role because we don't have the guys who have been there longer. We are now the vets (veterans) on the team."

Woods, who believes the U.S. are underdogs to reclaim the trophy they last won in Brookline in 1999, says the 12-man American team has the right mix of youth and experience to do well at the K Club in Straffan, Ireland.

"As far as our team coming together it's very interesting that actually it's a younger team. I believe I'm still the youngest... most of the guys are between 30 and 40 where most years we have a sprinkling of maybe three or four guys in their 40s," he said.

"This year is a younger crowd, Brett (Wetterich) might be the oldest of the four rookies at 33. I think we can all relate to each other being so much the same age."

Woods has already demonstrated his commitment by taking the team's four rookies -- Vaughn Taylor, J.J. Henry, Zach Johnson and Wetterich -- out to dinner recently.

"We had a great time... had some nice steak and we basically just talked about my experiences in the cup, what to expect... things you have to be ready for and also to reiterate to these guys that they have earned their place on the team."

The U.S. he said, will need to putt better this year and said how they played the 18th hole would be crucial.

"All of the teams I have been on, Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup, it's how you play the 18th hole.

"We didn't play the 18th hole well (two years ago). The Europeans did that at Oakland Hills better than we did. And they won the cup pretty easily.

"Hopefully this year we can putt better as a team and any match that goes to the 18th, hopefully we can get those matches and put the momentum back on our side."

Woods said he finds the demands on the players away from the golf course at Ryder Cups difficult to deal with.

"I'm not a real big function guy, that part has never been fun for me but it's part of the understanding of the Ryder Cup," he said.

"When I first played in 1997 I remember Payne (Stewart) and Mark (O'Meara) pulled me aside and said 'here's the deal, get your sleep now because when you get there you won't sleep a lot. They were right."

U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman has put his faith in Woods by saying "he has an incredible amount of heart".

Woods returned the compliment on Tuesday, saying: "Tom has been great. He has been a lot of fun to talk to and get to know over the past year.

"We've had numerous discussions, not necessarily about golf, just about life and I think that's been the neat thing about it."

Woods is in England for the World Match Play Championship starting at Wentworth on Thursday when he will face fellow American Shaun Micheel in the first round.

September 13, 2006


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