“As captain, I’m going to choose Tiger Woods as the last player on the team,” he then said. “He’s made, what, nine Cups and he’s played in Australia twice in the Presidents Cup, so this will be his third appearance there as a player.”
“And I find it interesting I’m talking in the third person,” Woods added with a laugh.
His self-inclusion essentially became a foregone conclusion when he recently returned from arthroscopic knee surgery to win the Zozo Championship, a PGA Tour event held in Japan. Earlier in the year, Woods won The Masters and reached the stirring pinnacle of a career comeback that began with a successful 2018 season, following two years in which he barely played amid persistent back woes and some personal issues.
The youngest captain in Presidents Cup history, Woods said Thursday (via ESPN) that other players “wanted me to play in the event.” He added that in assistant coaches Fred Couples, Steve Stricker and Zach Johnson, he will have “three great minds to help me when I’m playing.”
The eight players who qualified outright for the U.S. team, through a weighted system using FedEx Cup points earned from September 2017 through August’s Tour Championship, were (in descending order of ranking): Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Webb Simpson, Matt Kuchar and Bryson DeChambeau.
Finau was ninth on that list, with Woodland, who won this year’s U.S. Open, 10th and Reed 12th, while Woods was 13th. The 11th-place player, Presidents Cup veteran Rickie Fowler, got married last month and hasn’t played competitively since the Tour Championship.
Among others not chosen as a wild-card selection by Woods was Phil Mickelson, who finished 16th in qualifying points and had competed in every installment of the event, held every two years, since its inception in 1994. Mickelson said last month that he had “not played well in the last seven, eight months” and had “not done enough to warrant a pick.” Mickelson recently dropped out of the top 50 of the world rankings for the first time since 1993.
Woods may have to add another player to the team if Koepka does not recover in time from knee problems.
“He’s rehabbing, trying to get better, trying to get ready to play,” Woods said. “Let him focus on that. Put all his energy into that. When he starts playing golf, he’ll let me know, and I told him to keep me abreast of what’s happening.”
The Presidents Cup pits the U.S. against an International team composed of players from anywhere else in the world except for Europe, which competes in the Ryder Cup.
The eight outright qualifiers for the International team, based on Official World Golf Ranking points accumulated from Aug. 27, 2018, through Aug. 18 of this year, were (in descending order of ranking): Marc Leishman, Australia; Hideki Matsuyama, Japan; Louis Oosthuizen, South Africa; Adam Scott, Australia; Abraham Ancer, Mexico; Li Haotong, China; C.T. Pan, Taiwan; and Cameron Smith, Australia.
Australia’s Jason Day, who finished ninth in the standings, was named a wild-card pick Wednesday by captain Ernie Els. Sungjae Im of South Korea, Joaquin Niemann of Chile and Adam Hadwin of Canada rounded out the roster.
The only Presidents Cup victory for the International team came in 1998, when it was held at Australia’s Royal Melbourne — where it will be again this year (it was also contested there in 2011). The only other time the U.S. did not win the event was when the sides tied in 2003, at which point the Presidents Cup, which was not contested in 2002, started being held in odd-numbered years.
Woods is tied with Els and Vijay Singh for the second-most matches played in the Presidents Cup, 40, while Mickelson holds the mark at 55. Woods’s individual record in the event is 24-15-1.
“It’s going to be a lot of work, but something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time,” Woods said Thursday of his dual roles this year.