Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines - "Tigermania" is back
after crowds mobbed Tiger Woods like a rock star to see him snap a five-year
win drought, and it's about to hit France in a major way at the 42nd Ryder Cup.
READ: Woods seals fairy tale comeback win at Tour Championship
Like the Beatles in America in 1964 or Michael Jordan and
the US basketball team at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, Woods will be the star
attraction this week at Le Golf National.
The 14-time major champion, back on top form after spinal
fusion surgery, leads holders the United States against Europe starting Friday,
the Americans seeking their first victory on European soil in 25 years.
"The comeback is for real and it's nice for him to
prove that to the world," Britain's second-ranked Justin Rose said.
"The weekend is a pretty good introduction into the Ryder Cup for
Woods won the Tour Championship on Sunday at East Lake for
his 80th career US PGA Tour title, two shy of Sam Snead's all-time record, and
his first victory in 1,876 days, an emotional triumph highlighted by a
spectator stampede surrounding a police-protected Woods in a rush to see him on
the 18th green.
Fans chanted "Ti-ger, Ti-ger" and "U-S-A,
U-S-A" and Woods fought back tears before making the final putt to become
a champion once again after once fearing he might never play again.
"I was having a hard time not crying on the last
hole," Woods said, his voice choking at times. "I just can't believe
I pulled this off.
"It hasn't been so easy the last couple of years. It's
hard to believe I was able to do it again."
Nagging back injuries led to four operations since 2014,
including a "last chance" spinal fusion that has helped him to regain
the form of glory days at age 42.
"It's certainly up there with obviously all the major
championships I've won," Woods said. "I just didn't know whether this
would ever happen again. It means a lot. It really does.
"Eighty is a big number. I've been sitting on 79 for
about five years now, and to get 80 is a pretty damned good feeling."
"Sam is still ahead of me. Maybe I'll keep chipping
away at that number and maybe surpass it. But what I've gone through and what
I've dealt with, I've gotten lucky."
Rose watched with amazement at the endearing response Woods
drew from US fans, then joked with him as he walked off the last green.
"Jokingly, I said to him, 'About time,'" Rose
said. "I think that it's been a matter of time and we've all been waiting
for him to win and we've all been wanting him to win. And I think it's great
for the sport.
"He truly moves the needle like no one else out here,
and he wins in style. He wins with charisma. He's brilliant to watch."
World number 21 Paul Casey, Rose's European Ryder Cup
teammate, is excited about the Woods victory and what it means for Ryder Cup
"I'm pumped for next week," Casey said. "It's
like next week already. It was like warm-ups. This is quite important. So this
is massive. And this is a brilliant victory."
It was obvious when Woods found himself surrounded by
well-wishers taking photos of him with their cell phones, what he dubbed a
"I could hear it. I just didn't really see much,"
Woods said. "I was kind of looking forward and I figured that security
would hold them back."