Tiger Woods will be a welcome presence as a vice-captain on the US Ryder Cup team for this year’s edition of the biennial event, eminent sports psychologist Dr Bob Rotella told AFP.
The 14-time major winner — who will miss this week’s US Open as he continues his recovery from back surgery he underwent last September — will be listened to with equal respect by the seasoned veterans as well as the newcomers to the team, according to Rotella.
Rotella, who is primarily known for his work with top golfers and is helping US captain Davis Love III with the psychological demands of being skipper, said Woods would be a huge help in spurring on the US team given his enthusiastic support for Australian golfer Jason Day.
“The US team is happy at the very least that he is an assistant to the captain,” said Rotella, speaking in his role for Standard Life Investments, Worldwide Partner of The Ryder Cup, and for whom he has made a film on what it takes to be a world class performer.
“He will be listened to attentively in equal measure by the veterans as well as the young players (for the Cup which takes place at the Hazeltine National in Minnesota from September 30 to October 2).
“No finer example of his generosity in helping other golfers is than over the past six months he has been texting Jason Day encouraging and supporting him.
“Jason has had a lot of talent for a while but now he looks as if he could win every tournament he competes in,” added Rotella, who was speaking by phone from Oakmont where the US Open is being held.
Rotella, who has helped among others both Love and European skipper Darren Clarke in the past, said his belief was Woods would not return to the Tour until he had sorted out two problems.
“His return, which no one knows for sure when that will be, will be based on two factors,” said Rotella.
“Firstly that the physical scars of his surgery will have disappeared and his short game is back in shape.
“With regard to the first factor it seems like he is being really smart and making sure that when he returns he is back for good and there is no chance of any more surgery.
“On the second his short game, when he left the Tour he was really struggling with his chipping and putting and he won’t want to return unless he has rectified that part of his game.”
Rotella, who has written over 10 books on the subject of psychology and sports, said he had seen golfers come back too quickly from back problems.
“The mind and the body are very intimately linked,” he said.
“An example of that is I know a lot of times golfers who have had back problems and are back playing have bent down to line up a putt and felt pain.
“This places doubt in their mind and upsets their focus on the job in hand.”