Tiger Woods the captain chose Tiger Woods the player Thursday night among his four at-large selections for the U.S. Presidents Cup team that will play against an International squad next month in Australia.
“It’s going to be difficult but I always knew I had three amazing assistants,” Woods said, referring to Steve Stricker, Fred Couples and Zach Johnson. “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. Two matches minimum. It could be more. It’s about me understanding the guys, and understanding the golf course as well.”
The three other additions all finished ahead of Woods in the final Presidents Cup standings that yielded the eight automatic qualifiers in August. Rickie Fowler, at No. 11 , was not chosen, but the Ryder Cup/Presidents Cup veteran has not played since the Tour Championship.
Fowler, Kevin Na and Kevin Kisner would be possibilities for Woods should Brooks Koepka be unable to go due to injury. Koepka, the No. 1-ranked player in the world, underwent stem cell treatment on his left knee following the Tour Championship, then aggravated the knee issue when slipping on a cart path three weeks ago at the CJ Cup. Woods can choose any player if Koepka is unable to play.
As expected, Phil Mickelson was not a pick, meaning Lefty will miss his first U.S. team competition — Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup — dating to his first appearance in 1994.
The United States will be an overwhelming favorite in the Dec. 12-15 event, with 11 of the 12 players ranked among the top 16 in the world — ahead of the International team’s highest-ranked player, No. 17 Adam Scott.
Matt Kuchar is the United States’ lowest-ranked player at No. 22. The other players on the U.S. side are Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele and Webb Simpson.
Woodland and Cantlay are the only Americans to not have played on a U.S. team.
International captain Ernie Els made his four at-large selections Wednesday and he will have four Aussies on the team: Scott, Marc Leishman, Cam Smith and at-large pick Jason Day. Royal Melbourne is the site of the only International victory in the competition that the U.S. leads 10-1-1.
Woods, 43, who has a 24-15-1 record at the Presidents Cup (compared to 13-21-3 at the Ryder Cup) will become the first playing captain since Hale Irwin led the Americans at the inaugural Presidents Cup in 1994.
The most recent playing captain at the Ryder Cup was Arnold Palmer in 1963.
Woods recently noted that being a playing captain at the Ryder Cup would almost be impossible today due to the format. The Presidents Cup is played over four days, with just a single session each of the first two days. The Ryder Cup squeezes four sessions into the first two days of a three-day event.
“As a playing captain now, with the amount of responsibilities, trying to get pairings set for the afternoon sessions [at the Ryder Cup] … it’s gotten so much more complicated, compared to what Arnold had when he played. You couldn’t do it now.
“At the Presidents Cup, we submit and go head to head [with groupings] post round. At the Ryder Cup, it’s not like that. You have to figure out probably 12 or 13 holes into the match who is going to go back out in the afternoon.
“If you’re a playing captain, you couldn’t do that if you were playing in the morning. You’d have to rely on your vice captains to give you a bunch of information while you are playing. And that would be tough to handle.”
Woods became involved in the team process in 2014 when the PGA of America first set up a Ryder Cup task force and then a committee, of which Woods is part along with Mickelson and current U.S. Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker.
The idea was to try to establish some continuity from year to year among players, assistants and captains, prepping them for the task. Woods served as an assistant to Davis Love III at the 2016 Ryder Cup and to Stricker at the 2017 Presidents Cup, both U.S. victories.
He was one of captain Jim Furyk‘s selections for the Ryder Cup last year, but went 0-4 in a U.S. defeat to Europe in Paris.
Woods was initially unreceptive to the possibility of becoming a captain anytime soon, but that changed after his experiences at the Ryder Cup in 2016 and the Presidents Cup in 2017 as he attempted to come back from major back surgery.
Sometime in the fall of 2017, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said he received a text from Woods inquiring about the possibility going forward.
“I couldn’t call him back fast enough,” Monahan said.