LOS ANGELES: Tiger Woods will be a playing captain when he leads the United States against an International team in the Presidents Cup match play golf showdown at Royal Melbourne in December.
Woods, who claimed his 15th major title at the Masters in April and won his 82nd US PGA Tour title at the Zozo Championship in Japan two weeks ago, named himself among four captain’s picks for the 12-man team on Thursday, along with US Open champion Gary Woodland, former Masters champion Patrick Reed and world number 14 Tony Finau.
“As captain, I’m going to choose Tiger Woods as the last player on the team,” Woods said. “He’s made … nine Cups and he’s played in Australia twice in the Presidents Cup, so this will be his third appearance as a player. And I find it interesting talking in the third person.”
Woods will be the first playing captain in the Presidents Cup since American Hale Irwin in the inaugural edition in 1994.
The US superstar admitted in a conference call to announce his captain’s selections that piloting the team — choosing pairings and plotting strategy — and playing would be “a lot of work.”
But the decision had been widely expected since his victory at the Zozo Championship — his first outing since arthroscopic surgery two months ago to address knee trouble that had slowed him since his triumph at Augusta National.
As Woods himself said after his victory in Japan: “As a player, I got the captain’s attention.”
Woods said he would rely on help from assistant captains Steve Stricker, Fred Couples and Zach Johnson to keep the United States on track.
“It’s going to be difficult but I always knew I had three amazing assistants,” Woods said. “Two guys who have won Presidents Cup and Zach, who will be a future captain.
“Three great minds to help me when I’m playing.
“With the new rules, I just have to play one match prior to the singles,” he added. “Two matches minimum. It could be more. It’s about me understanding the guys, and understanding the golf course as well.”
Woods said his assistants had offered plenty of advice on whether to choose himself to play.
“Freddie was pretty ardent,” Woods said. “’You’re on the team, quit being stupid.’
“At the time, I haven’t even swung a club,” Woods said. “I got back to him after Japan.”
The Presidents Cup, a match play event modelled on the Ryder Cup that pits a non-European International team against the Americans, will be held December 12-15 at Royal Melbourne.
That’s where the International team notched their only victory — against 10 defeats and one draw — in 1998.
In 2011 at Royal Melbourne the Americans won with Woods securing the winning point.
The United States will be heavy favorites, with 11 of the 12 players ranked among the top 16 in the world.
Australian Adam Scott at 17th in the world is the International team’s highest-ranked player.
Nevertheless, Woods said he wouldn’t be taking anything for granted.
“When we start out on Thursday it’s zero-zero,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what the world ranking is, you’ve got to go out and beat the other guys.”
The eight Americans who played their way onto the team via points are Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay, Justin Thomas, Matt Kuchar, Webb Simpson and Bryson DeChambeau.
Koepka question mark
World number one Koepka had stem cell treatment on his left knee after the US PGA Tour’s Tour Championship and pulled out of the CJ Cup in South Korea three weeks ago after he aggravated the injury when he slipped on a cart path.
If Koepka is unable to play, Woods can choose any player to replace him but offered no details Thursday as to who a replacement might be.
Woods will be playing in his ninth Presidents Cup, and his first since 2013.
He is one of just five players to have ever posted a perfect 5-0 record in a single event. Only Phil Mickelson – who is missing his first Presidents Cup since the event was started in 1994 – has won more Presidents Cup matches.
Woods’s appearance comes two years after he served as an assistant to US captain Steve Stricker at Liberty National in New Jersey.
At the time, Woods was still recovering from back surgery and said that shortly before the event he wasn’t sure he’d be able to fulfill his role as an assistant because he didn’t know if he could tolerate riding in a golf cart.
But he returned to the PGA Tour in 2018, winning the season-ending Tour Championship that year before ending his major title drought at Augusta National in April. AFP