Tiger Woods came up agonizingly short in his attempt Sunday to win the PGA Championship and cap a remarkable return to the top. However, he may have earned something of a notable consolation prize: a spot on next month’s U.S. Ryder Cup team.
In fact, according to CBS analyst Nick Faldo, among others, Woods is a “lock” to be an at-large pick by team captain Jim Furyk. Woods could have sewn up an automatic spot if he had triumphed in the year’s final major, but his strong season and, of course, status in the game should ensure he is named to the squad.
Already an assistant Ryder Cup captain, as he was two years ago, Woods said shortly after his round Sunday that, this time, he yearns to do more than cheer on his countrymen. “I do want to be on the team as a player. I’m going to be there either way,” said Woods, who shot a 64 in the final round at Bellerive in St. Louis to finish second, two shots behind Brooks Koepka.
Going into the tournament, Koepka had already claimed a spot on the squad, as had Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas and Patrick Reed. Following Sunday’s action, four other players earned enough points to round out the automatic qualifiers: Bubba Watson, even though he missed the cut at Bellerive; Jordan Spieth; Rickie Fowler and Webb Simpson.
Woods is among the next eight players in the standings, having jumped from 20th before the PGA Championship to 11th. The others include Bryson DeChambeau, Phil Mickelson, Xander Schauffele, Matt Kuchar, Kevin Kisner, Tony Finau and Kyle Stanley.
“You want guys that are in good form, say, from the summertime on,” said Furyk, who is set to announce three at-large picks Sept. 3, with the fourth and last name to be revealed Sept. 9. The Ryder Cup will be held Sept. 28-30 near Paris, with the United States defending the crown it won in 2016 at Hazeltine in Minnesota but having lost its past five matches in Europe.
“You want guys that have had a good solid season,” Furyk added. “You want the very best players that you have the trust in as well.”
Woods would seem to fit the bill well for Furyk, even if his overall record over seven Ryder Cups, dating back to 1997, is just 13-17-3. That includes a 4-1-2 record in singles play, however, and the 14-time major winner’s recent results indicate that he is back among the game’s elite.
Having ended the 2017 season at No. 656 in the World Golf Rankings, amid persistent back woes and off-course issues that had more than a few fans wondering if he’d ever play competitively again, Woods has vaulted up to No. 26 after Sunday’s showing. He has top-six finishes in three of his past four tournaments, including the British Open, where he briefly held a final-round lead, and he certainly has the ear of Furyk.
“Our captain has some decisions to make after the first [FedEx Cup] playoff events, and we’ll sit down and give him our input and what we think and who should be on the team, and who can contribute to the team,” Woods said, “and hopefully my name will be part of that process.”
At this point, if Woods is not on the Ryder Cup team, it would be a bigger surprise than the fact that he’s, well, Tiger again.
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