- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 7, 2010

NEW YORK (AP) - Tiger Woods experienced a Ryder Cup tradition for the first time Tuesday.

Corey Pavin sat at the head table on the seventh floor of the New York Stock Exchange and announced his four captain’s picks to reporters and PGA of America dignitaries. The players, so thrilled to be chosen you could almost see them beaming as they listened via a conference call, were introduced one by one and asked to say “hello” to their captain.

This was new for Woods. He has led the Ryder Cup standings every time since turning pro.

Tiger Woods, are you with us today?” PGA spokesman Julius Mason said from the podium. “Say ‘good morning’ to your captain and everybody else in attendance today.”

An awkward silence followed.

Mason turned slightly nervous when he called out his name again, and for the briefest moment, some in the room wondered if Woods didn’t bother calling in or had hung up. Mason looked relieved to finally hear Woods‘ voice.

The only time Woods is ever on a conference call is to accept PGA Tour player of the year or to speak to local media at a tournament where he is the defending champion. On Tuesday, he was no different than Zach Johnson, Stewart Cink and Rickie Fowler _ even though he is very different.

Woods has won twice as many majors as the rest of the U.S. team combined, and nearly as many PGA Tour titles. He has been No. 1 in the world longer than seven of his teammates have been on tour.

But he still needed to be a captain’s pick to play. And there’s a reason for that.

True, Woods got a late start on the year when he tried to salvage a marriage that was shattered by his infidelity. He didn’t play until the Masters and has competed only 11 times this year. That still should have been enough for him to qualify for the team, except that Woods had trouble finishing in the top 10.

He no longer looks invincible on the golf course.

The American team no longer can be perceived as Tiger Woods and 11 other guys wearing the same uniform. At the moment, he’s not playing any better than them.

It could be the best thing that ever happened to him.

Woods is not the loner on tour that some make him out to be. At one tournament this year, he bet one of his playing partners who would shoot the lowest score over 36 holes, and the loser had to buy tickets to the movies that afternoon.

And while he privately rolls his eyes at black-tie dinners and opening ceremonies at the Ryder Cup that can feel more like a presidential inauguration, the best times of the year are spent in the team room with his fellow Americans.

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