CHASKA, Minnesota, Oct 2 (Reuters) - Tiger Woods, sidelined from playing for more than a year due to persistent back problems, threw himself into his role as assistant captain on the United States' Ryder Cup team and loved the experience.
"As a player that has been on these teams, to be on a different side of it, to be on the vice captaincy side of it has meant so much to me," Woods told reporters after the U.S. beat Europe for the first time since 2008, clinching a 17-11 triumph at Hazeltine on Sunday.
"To be part of getting to know these 12 guys, and these vice captains and our captain on a deeper level has meant so much to me.
"And the relationships that we've forged here this week and actually before this week, these are bonds that will last a lifetime."
Woods, 40, has played in seven Ryder Cups but only in one winning team and has a record of 13 wins, 17 losses and three halves.
Players including Patrick Reed, the top U.S. points earner with 3.5 from five matches, and Brandt Snedeker, a spotless 3-0 in the competition, have praised Woods for his dedication and the help they received from him.
Although enthused by the idea of becoming a future Ryder Cup captain, Woods hopes to make yet another comeback to competitive golf in coming months and ultimately return as a playing member of the U.S. team.
"I would love to do it," he said about a captaincy. "I would be honored to do it in the future if asked.
"But from the player standpoint of it, I like playing. I love these guys. I love being out there, in the fight with these guys.
"I was just in the fight a different way and had to do my role ... and it was pretty cool."
Bubba Watson thought having Woods as a fellow vice captain was a kick.
"I have Tiger's cell phone number now, yes. I'm going to text you all the time," said Watson, drawing laughs from the team and Woods himself.
Editing by Ian Ransom