Tiger Woods will lead Team USA in the Presidents Cup in December at Royal Melbourne in Australia, and has already warned the eight automatic qualifiers and potential captain’s picks about staying loose ahead of the event.
Woods, who was named the team captain, learned the eight automatic qualifiers for Team USA after the BMW Championship on Sunday: Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Webb Simpson, Matt Kuchar and Bryson DeChambeau. He will select four more players to round out the team before the event kicks off in December.
The 43-year-old was just outside the threshold for an automatic spot on the team himself, coming in at No. 13, and could opt to add himself to the team if he wants. While he hasn’t ruled that out, Woods said he plans to consult with his entire team before making a decision on filling the remaining four slots.
“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,” Woods said on Monday on a media conference call. “We’ll be going through the whole process of having open communication with our top eight guys and my vice captains.
“That is something that we will certainly talk about, whether I should play or not play. Ultimately it’s going to be my call whether I do play or not as the captain. But I want to have all of their opinions before that decision is made.”
Woods, who failed to reach the Tour Championship next week at East Lake in Atlanta, is set to play in just one PGA Tour event this fall — the Tour’s inaugural event in Japan in October. He’s still planning to play in plenty of unofficial events, however, in an attempt to stay loose.
Depending on how that goes, the 81-time Tour winner may elect to pick himself with one of the four captain’s picks.
“I think it has to do with a lot of my competitions I'm going to have down here,” Woods said. “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.”
Woods urges players to stay loose ahead of Australia
Woods isn’t just attempting to stay busy himself on the course this fall, when the PGA Tour season is relatively quiet. He’s urging the rest of the team to do so, too.
Woods said he sat down with the top 20 players before The Northern Trust at Liberty National Golf Club in New Jersey earlier this month to talk about the Presidents Cup, and urged them to keep competing before the team heads over to Australia in December. After all, the International team’s only victory over the United States in the biennial event came at Royal Melbourne in 1998.
“We talked about that, how important it is to be committed to the team and to the event and to each other, and that means playing and being prepared,” Woods said. “The only time that we have ever lost a Cup was in Australia, and quite frankly, some of the guys didn't play or practice that much. It was our off-season, and we got beat pretty badly.
“It's something that I try to enforce to the guys, reinforce to the guys, that it is important to be solid, be fresh, and to be sharp because we're going into — we're going overseas and we're playing against an amazing team, and it's on their soil.”
Woods didn’t give a number of tournaments he wants his team playing in ahead of time. The Tour only has 11 official events before December, too, five of which are outside of the United States. Only one of them — the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions in Shanghai, China, — is likely to draw a true competitive field, too.
Regardless, Woods doesn’t care where they play. Just as long as they’re staying loose.
“They’ll see what the number is,” Woods said. “Each player is different, but I would like to have them play a little bit in the fall and stay sharp, whether it’s playing on U.S. soil or going overseas or whatever it may be to play and to be sharp and ready to go.”
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