Captain Tiger Woods selected player Tiger Woods.
Solid choice. And an obvious one at that.
With one of his four picks to fill out the USA’s roster for the upcoming Presidents Cup in December in Australia, Woods picked himself Thursday when he announced his selections. He will join Hale Irwin (1994) as the only playing captains in the competition’s history.
Reigning U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland, Tony Finau and Patrick Reed were his three other discretionary choices.
PRESIDENTS CUP: Meet Tiger Woods and Team USA
“It was a difficult process,” Woods said of determining the picks he announced at The Woods Jupiter, his restaurant in Florida. He revealed he made five calls to players who did not make the team. “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.”
But really, how could Woods have not taken himself? He won the Masters in April and seemed to be a lock to make the team as one of the top 8 in the points race. But a painful, dismal summer caused by a bum left knee dropped him in the standings – he finished 13th. But Woods became an obvious selection when the No. 7-ranked player in the Official World Golf Rankings won his record-tying 82nd PGA Tour title at the Zozo Championship in October.
“As a player, I got the captain’s attention,” he said that day.
“For me, the Zozo was a big event,” he said Thursday. “It validated that I could play and I could help the team.”
That’s the tweet. pic.twitter.com/5zTXVnXcDU
— Presidents Cup (@PresidentsCup) November 8, 2019
One concern he had about picking himself was his ability to travel overseas, especially after his knee surgery. But the knee responded well in Japan and gave Woods “confidence that it will hold up in the long run down in Australia.”
The four picks will join Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Cantlay, Webb Simpson and Matt Kuchar when the U.S. meets the Internationals Dec. 12-15 at Royal Melbourne.
Internationals captain Ernie Els used his four picks Wednesday on Jason Day, Adam Hadwin, Sungjae Im and Joaquin Niemann. They join Hideki Matsuyama, Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen, Marc Leishman, Abraham Ancer, Haotong Li, Cameron Smith and C.T. Pan.
The U.S. leads the series 10-1-1.
Woods, 43, will be playing in his ninth Presidents Cup and first since 2013. Woods, who also was a vice captain in 2017, has an overall record of 24-15-1 in the Presidents Cup, including 6-2 in singles action.
Woodland, 35, is ranked No. 16 in the world and finished 10th in the Presidents Cup standings. He will be making his first appearance for the U.S. in team competition. He held off Koepka to win the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach by three strokes. He’s won four PGA Tour titles and, following a bit of a lull after leaving Pebble Beach, he returned to form in Asia with a tie for third in the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges and a fifth-place showing playing alongside Woods the final 36 holes at the Zozo Championship.
“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”
Finau, 30, is ranked No. 14 in the world and finished ninth in the standings. He will be making his debut in the Presidents Cup. In his debut in last year’s Ryder Cup, he was one of a few bright spots for the U.S., going 2-1-0. He has just one PGA Tour title – coming in an opposite-field event in 2016. But he has five top-10s in his last eight starts in a major.
“He’s been around, he gets it,” Woods said about Finau’s debut in the Ryder Cup. “He’s a great team, overall such a nice guy. He can play both (team) formats.”
Reed, 29, is ranked No. 15 in the world and finished 12th in the standings. Among his seven PGA Tour titles is the 2017 Masters; his most recent victory came in the Northern Trust in August during the FedExCup Playoffs. He’ll be making his third appearance in the Presidents Cup and sports an overall record of 4-3-2.
Reed also has played the Ryder Cup three times, posting a 7-3-2 record and being undefeated in singles. But after Europe thrashed the U.S. in 2018, Reed had harsh words for captain Jim Furyk and Jordan Spieth, who he teamed with so well in 2014 and 2016. His words ignited a storm that brought into question if Reed would ever be a captain’s pick. Woods answered that question.
“He has an amazingly solid record in the Presidents Cup and the Ryder Cup,” Woods said. “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.”
Left off the team was Rickie Fowler, 30. He’s ranked No. 21 in the world and finished 11th in the points race. The five-time PGA Tour winner has played on every U.S. team since the 2014 Ryder Cup; he also played in the 2010 Ryder Cup.
“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.”
Also not making the team was Phil Mickelson, 49, who has played in every Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup since 1994, a remarkable 24 consecutive appearances. But Mickelson, who won earlier this year in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am, hasn’t had a top 25 since the Masters. Last week, he fell out of the top 50 in the Official World Golf Rankings for the first time since November 1993, ending an extraordinary streak of 1,353 consecutive weeks.
“We’re going to have a pretty solid team going down there,” Woods said. “We’re playing on foreign soil, the crowds are going to be loud, but our guys are fiery and they love that arena.”