Meanwhile, the game's second most viable star, Mickelson, could potentially use the threat of not playing in future Presidents Cups as a lever to persuade the tour to make some of the changes he is seeking in the implementation of the FedEx Cup.
In an effort to head off such an insurrection, the tour has been predictably sensible. To create some breathing room for team play that did not exist this year nor will for the Ryder Cup in 2008, the 2009 Presidents Cup at San Francisco's Harding Park will be held Oct. 5-11. The 2011 event in Melbourne, meanwhile, is scheduled for November.
But while San Francisco offers enough star-quality resources, Australia will be a litmus test of the Presidents Cup's true growth. The same site in 1998 produced the most desultory American performance to date -- a 20½-11½ pasting. If Woods and/or Mickelson decide against the trip, it could start the Presidents Cup the way of the once proud, now in shambles World Cup.
Asked about the future of the event, the assessments of several principals ranged from defensively optimistic to non-committal. The former stance, not surprisingly, was taken by PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem. "I saw the enthusiasm, and I don't know why you are asking me about this," he said Sunday after the matches. "All I see are guys who love this competition. It's hard for me to imagine a situation where a guy wouldn't make every effort to participate because I know how much they care. Based on that, my comfort level for the Presidents Cup is high."
Ty Votaw, the tour's vice president of communications and international affairs, seemed even more comfortable. "I think in terms of the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup, the players really don't have a choice," he said. "They can't skip them. It's God and country."
Golf at its best should be a series of risks. JOHN LOW