It is fitting that the golfer who played with Tiger Woods on Sunday at the 2018 Tour Championship, Rory McIlroy, won that same tournament the last time it led into a Ryder Cup. McIlroy took the 2016 Tour Championship in a playoff and used it as a springboard for what was a pretty historic performance at Hazeltine the next week.
Woods won't go out five times for the U.S. side in Paris this year like McIlroy did that year, but his victory could similarly be a launching off point for a U.S. team that was sent screaming into France with a preposterous sendoff from the 18th green at East Lake on Sunday evening.
"He's played really well all year," said U.S. captain Jim Furyk of Woods on Monday. "I think [Woods has] been knocking on the door at two majors and had a number of opportunities to win this year. It's obviously a nice buzz for our team. Just I guess the amount of attention and the buzz around the PGA Championship, around the Tour Championship, the crowd ... on the 18th fairway yesterday was amazing."
Fans weren't the only ones surrounding Big Cat, either.
After Woods defeated McIlroy and Justin Rose, Ryder Cup teammate Bryson DeChambeau appeared to congratulate Woods, rocking a "beat Europe" shirt. He was joined by several other members of the team. The young American squad will certainly rally around their iconic hero as the teams prep for the 41st edition of these matches.
Bryson! pic.twitter.com/bVBfP34dXe— Adam Sarson (@Adam_Sarson) September 23, 2018
Will that mean anything when shots go up on Friday? Probably not, but it does sort of cover up for the fact that one-third of the U.S. team -- Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Phil Mickelson -- finished in the last four spots at the Tour Championship and were a combined 36 over. If Tiger hadn't won, that might actually be a story.
It also gives the U.S. squad some confidence. Not that 12 of the best players on the planet are short on it, but these younger players get juiced when Woods is in the room, how much more so when Woods is leading off the alternate shot matches.
"It obviously brings -- not that this event needs much more energy or that brought to it; it's probably the biggest, the grandest event in all of golf but it will add that much more excitement, I believe," said Furyk.
This will be Woods' first Ryder Cup with Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau and Tony Finau. His embrace of the team event and the strategy that goes with it has been stunning to watch unfold but I think beneficial to the U.S. side.
"I think what's so special is Tiger has ingrained himself in our team atmosphere and became such a big part of the team in 2016 as a vice captain, and then again in 2017 as an assistant captain at the Presidents Cup," added Furyk. "I think it's special for him now to kind of join these younger players as a teammate.
"You know, he won yesterday as an individual, and I know how much that means to him and how important it was, but he's flipped that page pretty quickly and is really excited to join his teammates and move forward in that process."
Whether the United States wins its second straight Ryder Cup won't depend on what Tiger Woods does in Paris, but what Tiger Woods did at East Lake could (and should) give them a jump start. You still have to go out and play the golf, but I'll take a squad with a suddenly-smoking best player of all time in its team room. Furyk and the other 11 golfers on that team will, too.