Tiger Woods is No. 1 but Euro Ryder Cup captain would rather have Ian Poulter on his team

Richard Heathcote

Tom Watson will likely have the reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year on his Ryder Cup team when the U.S. takes on the Europeans at Gleneagles, but Euro skipper Paul McGinley has a not-so-secret weapon in Ian Poulter.

Tiger Woods may have played on just one winning Ryder Cup team in his storied career and 2014 U.S. captain Tom Watson may claim that the leadership of the world No. 1 is critical if his squad is to stop a two-contest losing streak next year at Gleneagles, but European skipper Paul McGinley believes he holds the formula to the continent’s second straight cup victory and seventh in the last nine efforts.

"I don't care who you are, if you don't look up to Tiger Woods, what he's accomplished in his career and say, ‘I want to play like Tiger Woods,’ you don't know what you're talking about," Watson told reporters Tuesday during "Year to Go" celebrations to kick off the matches in Scotland. "He's had the most remarkable career probably of almost any professional golfer in the history of your game."

Watson, one of Woods’ most vocal post-fire hydrant critics, reiterated the flattering remarks he made about the 14-time major champion when the PGA of America announced his captaincy last December. He embellished upon those comments Tuesday, much to the amusement of McGinley.

"To have him on your team," marveled Watson, "it’s like, when I played in the Ryder Cup, I stood on the tee [and heard] several times ‘And now on the tee ... Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus.’ You don't think that was kind of a ‘whew’ moment; God, I've got Jack Nicklaus on my six."

McGinley, with exquisite comic timing and a mischievous grin, replied after a pause of a few beats and to general merriment from those gathered, "We’ve got Ian Poulter."

Game. Set Match -- Europe. At least for the pre-cup festivities.

Poulter, of course, nearly single-handedly dismantled the Americans on U.S. soil at Medinah last September and, with a sizzling hot putter and a maniacal determination to trounce the home team, was clearly the Euros’ MVP of the tournament. The 37-year-old Englishman went 4-0 in the competition, leading the visitors to a stunning comeback from four points down entering the final day of play and improving his overall cup record to 12-3-0.

On the other hand, Woods, who can boast of just that one team win since becoming a perennial member of every U.S. Ryder Cup team since 1997, went 0-3-1 in his squadron's epic meltdown. Tiger, with a lifetime 13-17-3 record, scored his half point in the contest’s meaningless final singles match and later apologized to his team’s rookies for his lackluster play.

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