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Tiger Woods debate continues to boil

10/20/2011 - Golf Tiger Woods Geoff Ogilvy + more

The folks in Australia who have spent years planning the Presidents Cup and those in Florida at PGA Tour headquarters who ultimately run it must somehow be trying to contain enormous glee.

Their Ryder Cup knockoff is decades behind in tradition and importance in the golf landscape, but never has it received the kind of pre-event hype that seems to keep coming, day after day.

Tiger Woods and his selection to the U.S. team that will take on an International squad next month at Royal Melbourne continue to generate headlines, and those charged with selling tickets and marketing the tournament have to absolutely love such attention.

Of course, there are more than a few cynics out there who believe that is the root of the Tiger pick in the first place, that the PGA Tour and Australian tournament officials and the various television networks involved in the broadcast all conspired with U.S. captain Fred Couples to make sure the game's marquee attraction was part of the event.

No way it generates this kind of interest otherwise. Certainly not now, four weeks away. No way is it televised live in the United States despite a 16-hour time difference to the East Coast (and 19 to the West Coast). No way we're discussing the Presidents Cup, which is modeled very closely after the Ryder Cup but has nowhere near the history and venom that make it so special.

Woods' selection to the U.S. team despite various injuries, inactivity and poor play this year has changed all that -- regardless of how he came to be on the 12-man team.

The latest to react was Australia's Geoff Ogilvy, a seven-time PGA Tour winner, 2006 U.S. Open champion and a native of Melbourne. In a conference call mostly with Australian media on Wednesday night, Ogilvy criticized the timing of Woods' selection.

And that came just a few days after International captain Greg Norman said he would not have picked Woods.

"You can't ever say that picking Tiger Woods is a bad selection,'' Ogilvy said. "But the way he picked him, I don't agree with the way he picked him, announcing it months early. Basically telling the guys who are on the fringe of the U.S. team there's really only going to be one pick. I'm not exactly sure in saying it that early. And it is disappointing. Keegan Bradley is the obvious one, he's won two tournaments this year, one of them being a major, and he hasn't made the team, which is astonishing really that you can do that in a year and not make the team. So I'm very disappointed for him.

"I guess it's a very difficult situation when you announce you're going to pick one guy that early for everybody else. It's hard to say that picking Tiger Woods on your team is a bad thing because he's been the best golfer in the world for the last 15 years. Maybe not for the last 18 months but definitely for the last 15 years. But doing it the way he did it might not have been the best.''

And therein lies the biggest issue with the pick. Not so much the pick itself, but when it was made.

Couples would have had a much easier time selling the selection had he announced it on Sept. 27, when the other at-large selections were made -- Australians Aaron Baddeley and Robert Allenby for the Internationals and Bill Haas along with Woods for the Americans. But Couples said in late August -- two weeks after Woods had just shot 10 over at the PGA Championship -- that he was picking the former world No. 1.

Woods had just returned to competitive golf after four months away due to injury. He had barely practiced and played. He competed in two tournaments after tying for fourth at the Masters. Bradley, who won the PGA Championship as well as the Byron Nelson Championship, was being left off. And it was easy to argue with the choice, conspiracy theories or not.

Yet had Couples waited, he could have more easily sold the pick: Woods has had time to practice; he added another tournament (the Frys.com Open) to go with his previously planned Australian Open appearance before the Presidents Cup; he's got a lot of experience and leadership; he's gone 8-1 in the last two team competitions, with Steve Stricker as his partner; and hey, he's Tiger Woods, whose body of work trumps his most recent past.

You might not like those arguments, but they are plausible, certainly easier to make after some time to let Woods work his way back into form -- even if none of us could witness it.

Ogilvy's timing comments came in response to a question about Norman, who last weekend was also critical of the pick.

"I can understand the name of Tiger Woods and his history of what he's done on the golf course,'' Norman said. "But me, as a captain, I pick the guys I think who are ready to get in there and play, who have performed to the highest of levels leading up to it.''

Of course, in the same role two years ago in San Francisco, Norman picked countryman Adam Scott -- who was in the midst of a horrible slump, having missed the cut in three of four majors, who had but one top-10 finish all year, who had dropped to No. 65 in the world.

Norman took a big gamble on Scott -- who went 1-4 in the competition. Couples is taking a big gamble on Woods -- who has played a total of 10 competitive rounds of golf since the Masters.

Everybody seemingly has an opinion, each one stirring the debate some more, the Presidents Cup coming out the big winner.

Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.