[PHOTO: Franck Fife]

The subject of Tiger Woods lit up an otherwise placid Monday afternoon press conference ahead of the Ryder Cup at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club.

U.S. captain Zach Johnson and his European counterpart, Luke Donald, went through the motions of talking about pairings, course setup, etc. before Johnson was asked if 15-time major winner Woods would travel to Italy to witness the Americans’ attempt to win their first Ryder Cup on European soil in 30 years.

The short answer was no.

“Tiger will not be joining us in Italy,” Johnson said. “He’s got a lot on his plate.”

It was also asked of Johnson if Woods, an eight-time U.S. Ryder Cup team member, would feature in any group chats or even motivational video conference calls with the current squad. A fair question, given Johnson has previously said Woods has been texting him frequently.

However, Johnson said 47-year-old Woods, who last weekend caddied for his son Charlie during his victory at an Orlando regional qualifier for the Notah Begay Invitational, wasn’t likely to offer any advice now that Ryder Cup week is underway.

“As far as conferring with him, communicating with him, we have up to this point, and he understands that now that our feet are on the ground, it’s probably best that we navigate this ourselves,” Johnson said.

“But he’s always in our corner, and at this point it’s more encouragement on his side, whether he’s texting the guys or texting the vice-captains and captains, he’s there to encourage because he’s very invested in what we do year-in and year-out with Team USA, and that has never ceased, and I’m grateful for that.

“He’s the best player of our generation. Thankfully, he’s an American. We are going to utilise his knowledge and his wisdom and his candour and his passion the best we can.”

Otherwise, Johnson made it sound as if Woods will have little influence this week.

“When it comes to the week of the tournament, if you’re not inside the team room, inside the ropes, shoulder-to-shoulder with these guys, it’s not fair to ask him questions,” Johnson said. “He can give us insights, don’t get me wrong. At the same time, I don’t know if that’s proper and I think he would understand completely.”

We doubt Woods will be able to resist the temptation to fire up his countrymen. After all, in 2021, Woods sent plenty of motivation from his couch in Florida to the superstar pairing of Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele during the Americans’ 19-9 demolition of Europe at Whistling Straits. The duo went 2-0-0.

“We had a nice message from Tiger,” Schauffele said at Whistling Straits. “Obviously, not going to reveal what it said, but Pat and I knew. We referred to it a few times a day, and we knew what we needed to do.”

Woods last played in the Ryder Cup in 2018, when the U.S. lost in Paris. In 37 total matches played, his record is 13-21-3. In 2019, in his one experience as a team captain, he led the U.S. to victory over the Internationals in the 2019 Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne.

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This article was originally published on golfdigest.com