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Tiger Woods names himself, three others to Presidents Cup team

UniqueThis 2 Nov 7
7:20 PM ET

Tiger Woods the captain chose Tiger Woods the player Thursday night among his four at-large selections for the U.S. Presidents Cup team that will play against an International squad next month in Australia.

Woods, who was expected to pick himself after he won the Zozo Championship recently, also added Tony Finau, U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland and Patrick Reed to the 12-man team.

"The players, they wanted me to play in the event,'' Woods said during a news conference from his restaurant in Jupiter, Florida. "It's going to be difficult, but I also have three amazing assistants in Fred [Couples], Stricks (Steve Stricker) and Zach [Johnson]. So that helps a lot. Two guys who have won Presidents Cups [as captains] and Zach who will be a future captain. Three great minds to help me when I'm playing.

"With the new rules, I just have to play one match prior to the singles. Two matches minimum. It could be more. It's about me understanding the guys, and understanding the golf course as well.''

Woods said all along Couples -- who was the winning U.S. captain in 2009, 2011 and 2013 -- had prodded him to play, despite the poor end to his 2019 season and the fact that he underwent a knee procedure in August. Woods also revealed on Golf Channel that he had a torn oblique.

"He was pretty adamant,'' Woods said of Couples. "He said, 'Quit being stupid.' I told him let me rehab this knee, play in Japan and get back to you.''

Woods' victory at the Zozo Championship saw him win by three strokes and lead from the first round. He made 27 birdies for the tournament and looked better than at any time since winning the Masters.

The three other additions all finished ahead of Woods in the final Presidents Cup standings that yielded the eight automatic qualifiers in August. Rickie Fowler, at No. 11 , was not chosen, but the Ryder Cup/Presidents Cup veteran has not played since the Tour Championship.

Fowler, Kevin Na and Kevin Kisner would be possibilities for Woods should Brooks Koepka be unable to go due to injury. Koepka, the No. 1-ranked player in the world, underwent stem cell treatment on his left knee following the Tour Championship, then aggravated the knee issue when slipping on a cart path three weeks ago at the CJ Cup. Woods can choose any player if Koepka is unable to play.

Woods said he is not rushing Koepka on a decision. "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.''

As expected, Phil Mickelson was not a pick, meaning Lefty will miss his first U.S. team competition -- Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup -- dating to his first appearance in 1994.

The United States will be an overwhelming favorite for the Dec. 12-15 event, with 11 of the 12 players ranked among the top 16 in the world -- ahead of the International team's highest-ranked player, No. 17 Adam Scott.

Matt Kuchar is the United States' lowest-ranked player at No. 22. The other players on the U.S. side are Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele and Webb Simpson.

Woodland and Cantlay are the only Americans to not have played on a U.S. team.

International captain Ernie Els made his four at-large selections Wednesday and will have four Aussies on the team: Scott, Marc Leishman, Cam Smith and at-large pick Jason Day. Royal Melbourne is the site of the only International victory in the competition that the U.S. leads 10-1-1.

Woods, 43, who has a 24-15-1 record at the Presidents Cup (compared to 13-21-3 at the Ryder Cup) will become the first playing captain since Hale Irwin led the Americans at the inaugural Presidents Cup in 1994.

The most recent playing captain at the Ryder Cup was Arnold Palmer in 1963.

Woods recently noted that being a playing captain at the Ryder Cup would almost be impossible today due to the format. The Presidents Cup is played over four days, with just a single session each of the first two days. The Ryder Cup squeezes four sessions into the first two days of a three-day event.

"As a playing captain now, with the amount of responsibilities, trying to get pairings set for the afternoon sessions [at the Ryder Cup] ... it's gotten so much more complicated, compared to what Arnold had when he played. You couldn't do it now.

"At the Presidents Cup, we submit and go head to head [with groupings] post round. At the Ryder Cup, it's not like that. You have to figure out probably 12 or 13 holes into the match who is going to go back out in the afternoon.

"If you're a playing captain, you couldn't do that if you were playing in the morning. You'd have to rely on your vice captains to give you a bunch of information while you are playing. And that would be tough to handle.''

Woods became involved in the team process in 2014 when the PGA of America first set up a Ryder Cup task force and then a committee, of which Woods is part along with Mickelson and current U.S. Ryder Cup captain Stricker.

The idea was to try to establish some continuity from year to year among players, assistants and captains, prepping them for the task. Woods served as an assistant to Davis Love III at the 2016 Ryder Cup and to Stricker at the 2017 Presidents Cup, both U.S. victories.

He was one of captain Jim Furyk's selections for the Ryder Cup last year, but went 0-4 in a U.S. defeat to Europe in Paris.

Woods appeared drained in France, never quite having the same vigor he showed a week earlier in winning the Tour Championship in Atlanta. He'll have another tough turnaround as he hosts the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas on Dec. 4-7, then will leave with other teammates on a charter to Australia, arriving the Monday of Presidents Cup week.

"Last year was a bit different because it was all of the [FedEx Cup] playoff events and the heat we played in, and then hopping on a flight that night and going straight to Paris,'' he said. "And also, I think the emotional stress and the emotional release of finally winning an event and coming back from my back surgery, that took a toll on me a bit.

"So this is different. A totally different animal. I'm playing the Hero World Challenge, not a PGA Tour event, even though we have world ranking points. It's a very easy week. I do have some duties there at night, but overall, it's a very easy week. And then our flight down to Oz will be easy, just long.''

Woods was initially unreceptive to the possibility of becoming a captain anytime soon, but that changed after his experiences at the Ryder Cup in 2016 and the Presidents Cup in 2017 as he attempted to come back from major back surgery.

Sometime in the fall of 2017, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said he received a text from Woods inquiring about the possibility going forward.

"I couldn't call him back fast enough,'' Monahan said.