Matt Roberts, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Tiger Woods
When Tiger Woods first told PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan that he’d like to be considered for the role of U.S. Presidents Cup captain, he was still trying to mount a comeback from a fourth back surgery, while conspicuously lingering somewhere outside the top 500 on the world ranking.
By the time Woods was announced to that position a few months later, he was fresh off a runner-up finish at last year’s Valspar Championship that had vaulted him all the way up to 149th on the list.
Even if the eight-time Presidents Cup competitor gave lip service at the time to the idea that he could serve as a playing captain, he clarified that statement by insisting that he didn’t want the choice to be in his hands.
“I would like to get to a point where I wouldn’t have to make that decision,” he said during the announcement, “to where I’m playing well enough where I could make the team on points.”
He didn’t make the team on points, but he is indeed playing well enough.
Two weeks removed from his 82nd career PGA Tour victory at the Zozo Championship, Woods will announce his four captain’s selections Thursday evening – and it would be a shock if he doesn’t call his own name.
“If he doesn’t,” surmised Gary Woodland, who is also seeking one of those wildcard picks, “that’s dumb.”
As recently as a few weeks ago, I was of the opinion that even as the reigning Masters champion, Woods would eschew bringing his clubs to Royal Melbourne in favor of a golf cart and earpiece. After all, there’s a reason he signed up for the job – and that reason wasn’t to pull double-duty.
Tiger has spent the past two decades watching other captains make decisions about everything from pairings and matchups to pep talks and wardrobes. He wanted the opportunity to make his own choices and he’s been relishing this role for the past 18 months.
After his latest win, though, I completely agree with Woodland: If he doesn’t pick himself, that’s dumb.
The most important job as a captain is to bring the best dozen players together who can help win the event and right now, Woods is easily on that list. Really, he’d be doing a disservice to his players if he didn’t accept a roster spot this week.
That’s one down and seven to go between Woods and his International team counterpart Ernie Els, who will name his four captain’s picks Wednesday evening.
The others won’t be so easy – and as always, the decisions come down to a matter of form versus function.
As you’ll recall, prior to last year’s Ryder Cup, U.S. captain Jim Furyk named Woods, Tony Finau, Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickelson to his roster; only the latter choice was subject to a smattering of criticism. Of course, when the team ultimately appeared overmatched at Le Golf National, that chorus loudened, as Furyk was castigated for not bringing players whose games were more functional for that specific course.
That might be a moot suggestion for this occasion, as Royal Melbourne should play as a fast, firm, windblown track, the likes of which elite players only play a few times each year. Then again, current form might be a similarly blueprint, as picks are being announced five weeks before the event, during a time when so many of the potential candidates aren’t competing very often.
With that in mind, let’s try to predict each captain’s four selections for later this week.