If Tiger Woods is to play in the Presidents Cup he will have to pick himself as a wildcard. Mark Townsend joined a conference call with the 15-time major champion to discuss this possibility
“I would like to get to a point where I’m playing well enough where I could make the team on point. I wouldn’t want to have the conversation and go, ‘Self.’ I don’t really want to have that conversation, so let’s just see how it progresses.” This was Tiger Woods speaking after being named as the Presidents Cup captain in March 2018.
He had just finished T2 at the Valspar, was about to record a top five at Bay Hill and even better was to come at East Lake. The real cherry on the cake though, and maybe what might turn out to be his career-defining moment, which says an awful lot, was to come at Augusta where he took the lot of them down at the age of 43.
In terms of Presidents Cup business Woods appeared set to be a shoo-in as a playing captain for Royal Melbourne following, belatedly, in the footsteps of Hale Irwin who did it in the inaugural matches in 1994. Irwin qualified on merit for his team in 7th place.
But just six starts after in the next four months – MC-T9-T21-MC-WD-T37 – and the World No. 8 isn’t even in the Tour Championship field.
For anyone else, who had played so few times, had withdrawn after one round at Liberty National, struggles with long flights and is 43, you would think that his Presidents Cup race was run.
For the record he finished 13th in the standings.
Which is an odd thing to say given he picks the team, a side that is also currently without Tony Finau, US Open champion Gary Woodland, Rickie Fowler, Patrick Reed, Kevin Kisner, Phil Mickelson and Jordan Spieth.
Widen the net a little and we start considering the likes of Matthew Wolff and Collin Morikawa.
So what happens now and what would it need for Tiger to bring his clubs with him on the 20-hour flight to Melbourne?
How much will Tiger be play in the interim in an official capacity?
At present Tiger is signed up to play in the Zozo Championship in Japan in October.
From there it’s onto his own Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas six weeks later with the Presidents Cup the following Friday.
Tiger announces his picks on November 4.
How much will Tiger play in the interim in an unofficial capacity?
This is the slightly odd bit as this, according to his conference call, seems to be a factor.
“It has to do with a lot of my competitions I’m going to have down here,” he said, presumably referring to his home in Florida. “I’ll be playing with a lot of the guys here.
“They’re going to be getting ready for some of the fall events, we’ll have some matches and that’s always fun because we’re able to talk trash and have a great time and try and get in one another’s pockets. That will be something that I will definitely rely on, and obviously the event in Japan will be a big deal.”
Which might be good news for near neighbour Fowler if he can turn it on in the Wednesday roll-up.
How much would he have to play?
Obviously he could take it easy – this year there will be five lots of matches in each session rather than the six to help with the depth of the sides – but that would seem strange having picked himself at the expense of someone who might miss out on some valuable experience of being in an American side and with the Ryder Cup, and the humiliation of Paris still in the rear-view mirror, just nine months away.
Maybe the heat of Melbourne will play a part in his decision and he’ll quite fancy taking on one of the world’s best courses and doing something away from the norm, something he loves doing?
What’s his record like?
Tiger might not have played in these matches since 2013 and been a vice-captain two years ago, a time when he could barely ride in a buggy due to the jolting in his back, but there’s a lot to like about his Presidents Cup form.
A fact that won’t shock many given the 10-1-1 overall standings in the matches since they began but he’s got some sweet memories of the competition having secured the clinching point three times and gone 5-0 in one of those in 2009.
On his last time out, in 2013, he led the American scoring at Muirfield Village partnering Matt Kuchar.
For the record he’s sitting on a record of 24-15-1 compared to his Ryder Cup efforts of 13-21-3.
Who has the final say?
“Ultimately it’s going to be my call whether I do play or not as the captain.”
But Woods has been quick to repeat in any interview that it will be a group discussion leading up to the final one.
“That’s up to myself and the vice-captains and eight guys. I’m going to keep an open line of communication with my players and my vice-captains to find the four guys that they want to go down there with and who best fits the team. This is a team, and we want the guys that are going to be a part of this experience and that they want to go to battle with.
“My job as the captain is to put together the best team possible and try and put together the best 12 guys. That’s what I’m trying to do. That is something that we will certainly talk about, whether I should play or not play.”
Who, out of his team-mates and vice-captains Zach Johnson, Fred Couples and Steve Stricker, do you suppose is going to tell him that there are better options elsewhere?
What does that mean?
If he stays fit then you would probably side with him getting a pick (from himself). This is one of the most lopsided rivalries in world sport and Tiger’s still bigger than the other 23 players put together.
There’s a load of commercial pressure on him to play and he’s the one who everyone wants to watch. Not that anyone wants to admit as much.
“I want Tiger to do what he thinks is right for his team and for himself,” said PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, before acknowledging “I think everybody would love to see him play.”
Has Tiger already picked himself?
On Friday September 13 Tiger wrote a captain’s blog which was all standard stuff about golf in Melbourne but then signed it off like this…
Which is all a) odd b) a bit flirty c) maybe just an example of the new ‘funny Tiger’ or d) if correct, quite rude to the other big guns hoping for a pick and the process of naming them.
All will be revealed in good time and ideally not slap bang in the middle of another team competition, the Solheim Cup.