It is a further nod towards the progress of Tiger Woods that it would now be a shock if he does not play at next months Ryder Cup, for which Jim Furyk has named the eight automatic qualifiers
It is a further nod towards the progress of Tiger Woods that it would now be a shock if he does not play at Septembers Ryder Cup. Woodss hopes of a 15th major title, which would have earned him an automatic berth in Jim Furyks team, were doused by Brooks Koepka on Sunday but a second-place finish at the US PGA Championship was sufficient to keep the 42-year-old at the front of the picture. A year ago, the impact of back surgery meant he was unable to swing a golf club.
The eight qualifying members of Furyks team have been confirmed. Koepka will be joined in France by Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Webb Simpson. With certainty attached to Woodss name as one of four wildcard picks, speculation surrounds who will join him. Phil Mickelson, Tony Finau and Matt Kuchar are believed to be the names, for now, most prominent in Furyks mind. Everyone else, it seems, is occupied by Woods.
Hes playing very well, Furyk said. I think theres a lot of folks out there who probably think he can help us. Really what we wanted to talk about today was the top eight players. I realise Tiger is a story. I realise hes playing very well and Im excited to see that.
Im not sure the numbers are always that important when I look down the list. What is important is how well Tiger has played. Sixth place at the Open Championship, second place at the US PGA. I think the word he used is trending. His game is trending. So its great to see him playing well.
For me, the numbers are nice, good to look at, but not always the most important. We want the players who are going to help us be successful.
Woods had already been confirmed as a non-playing vice-captain for the USA. Furyk said on Monday that should Woods take on a playing capacity, he will select another assistant. Tigers been a vice-captain in the team room as a player he serves that role in either direction, Furyk said. Hes priceless, to be honest with you. Hes been really a big help to our captains in both 2016 and 2017 from a strategy perspective, from a personnel, personalities, and also really serving on the golf course. Walking with players, I think its been a big boost having the best player maybe to ever live following your group and being there for support. So hes a huge value.
I want to make sure I have five vice-captains there. Thats what were allowed and I see a lot of value in having all five there. So I will have five.
The supposed strength of this USA side was emphasised by Koepka, who has won three major championships in 14 months. He is just the fifth player to claim the US Open and US PGA in the same season. This guy started out the year injured, Furyk said. So as a captain [early in 2018], Im scratching my head and Im worried. How can you not have Brooks Koepka come to Europe with you?
He talked to me about making this team and I know his number one goal this year was to get healthy. Right from the moment that he sat out the Masters, from the moment he got healthy this year, he hit the tour running. Its great to have him on the team. Fierce competitor, he carries himself with a swagger that everyone talks about.
Furyks opposite number, Thomas Bjorn, has plenty to ponder albeit the automatic qualifying process for Europes team does not conclude until the end of the Made in Denmark tournament on 2 September.
Key in Bjorns thoughts must be Sergio Garca, routinely a key player but woefully out of sorts and form. It cannot be beyond the realms of possibility that the Spaniard will remove himself from the playing equation, as he did in 2010, but otherwise Bjorn will have to select a player who has missed five major cuts in succession.
Ian Poulter has edged above Paul Casey in the chase for an automatic berth, with one of the two virtually guaranteed a wildcard if needed. The same applies to Henrik Stenson. Thomas Pieters, who played well in the 2016 defeat, shot back to prominence with a sixth-place finish at the US PGA. Thorbjorn Olesen, who could still qualify automatically, is known to figure highly in the specific statistical data collated by Bjorn and his team.