MELBOURNE – United States captain Tiger Woods made the best choices he could for his Presidents Cup team. One of those selections was himself.
“As captain, I’m going to choose Tiger Woods as the last player on the team,” Woods said.
Woods was one of his own four selections on Thursday for next month’s competition in Australia against an international team of professional golfers.
The 43-year-old joins Hale Irwin (1994) as the only playing captains in the event’s history. Woods wound up 13th in the U.S. point standings for automatic spots on the team, with the top eight qualifying.
Woods’ other choices were U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland (No. 10), Tony Finau (No. 9) and Patrick Reed (No. 12).
“It was a difficult process,” Woods said of the selections announced at his restaurant in Jupiter, Fla. “I wanted to see some form from the guys in the U.S. and over in Asia, wanted to see guys play a little bit and play well. And that included me.”
The four picks join Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Webb Simpson, Matt Kuchar and Bryson DeChambeau on the U.S. squad for the Dec. 12-15 competition at The Royal Melbourne Golf Club.
Among the players passed over were Rickie Fowler and Phil Mickelson, who finished 11th and 16th, respectively, in the U.S. point standings.
Woods said he called five players to tell them they weren’t going to make the team. One was Fowler.
“That was a tough call to make,” Woods said. “He’s a friend of mine. We kept it short. There was no need for a long call. I’ve been on both sides, I haven’t been picked. I get it. He’s obviously going to hurt not being there.”
Mickelson has played in every Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup since 1994, a streak of 24 consecutive appearances.
Meanwhile, Woods will be playing in first Presidents Cup since 2013 and his ninth overall. He has a 24-15-1 record.
Woodland, 35, will be making his first appearance for the United States in team competition. His star rose when he held off Koepka to win the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.
“What he displayed this year at Pebble Beach when he won the U.S. Open was pretty special,” Woods said. “He’s such a competitor. All the players wanted him on the team.”
Woodland was thrilled to be selected.
“I can’t tell you how excited I am. I’ve been close to making a lot of teams and I have never made one,” Woodland said. “It’s been a goal at the start of every year to make that team. … I miss the team atmosphere. I want to get in that locker room and see the guys. That’s what I’m looking forward to, and on top of that, representing your country and you’re playing for Tiger Woods, that’s pretty special.”
Finau, 30, made his Ryder Cup debut last year and went 2-1-0. Now he is on the Presidents Cup team for the first time.
“He’s been around, he gets it,” Woods said about Finau. “He’s a great team (guy), overall such a nice guy. He can play both (team) formats.”
Reed, 29, is 4-3-2 in Presidents Cup play. He also harshly criticized captain Jim Furyk and teammate Jordan Spieth after the U.S. lost to Europe in the 2018 Ryder Cup, but Woods isn’t concerned.
“He has an amazingly solid record in the Presidents Cup and the Ryder Cup,” Woods said of Reed. “He’s as fiery as they come. He bleeds red, white and blue and will do anything to win a point, and that’s what we want. We want to win points.”
Spieth, Kevin Na and Kevin Kisner are among others passed over for the team.
A replacement could be needed if Koepka (knee) can’t play.
International captain Ernie Els of South Africa made his four picks on Wednesday and selected Australia’s Jason Day, Canada’s Adam Hadwin, South Korea’s Sungjae Im and Chile’s Joaquin Niemann.
The foursome join Australians Marc Leishman, Adam Scott and Cameron Smith; Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen, Mexico’s Abraham Ancer, China’s Haotong Li and Taiwan’s C.T. Pan.
The United States holds a 10-1-1 lead in the competition.
–Field Level Media