The remarkable comeback story this season of Tiger Woods is set to have a chapter on his performance at the Ryder Cup. Woods was selected Tuesday as an at-large member of the U.S. team, as were Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau.
That trio, plus another selection still to be announced by captain Jim Furyk, will join the eight players who qualified in the points race — Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Webb Simpson — in taking on Europe later this month in France. Woods was already tabbed to participate in the event, but he said Tuesday that after having been named a vice captain in February, he was deeply gratified by being able to play his way onto the squad.
“It’s incredible, it really is, to look back at the start of the year and now to have accomplished a goal like that,” Woods, 42, said (via the AP). “To be a part of this team, and now to be a player is just … beyond special.”
Following two years spent almost completely away from the PGA Tour amid persistent back woes and some personal issues, Woods began this season 656th in the World Golf Rankings. However, after a fourth surgical procedure on his back and a lengthy recovery, he has been able to compete in 16 PGA events in 2018, accumulating five top-10 finishes, including second place at the PGA Championship, plus a sixth-place showing at the British Open.
After finishing 11th in the Ryder Cup standings, which were cemented in mid-August, Woods was declared to be a “lock” for the team by CBS analyst Nick Faldo. Furyk was quick to acknowledge at the time that Woods was “trending” in the right direction, but he waited until Tuesday to confirm that the 14-time major winner would, in fact, be making his eighth appearance in the international competition.
Mickelson will be making his 12th appearance, breaking a record he had shared with Faldo, and he has competed in every one since 1995. What the 48-year-old has yet to do is win on foreign soil, and he said Tuesday he was well aware this event might represent his final opportunity to get that triumph.
“This is mostly likely my last chance to go over to Europe and to be a part of a winning U.S. team in Europe. We haven’t done that in 25 years,” said Mickelson, who was 10th in the Ryder Cup standings. “I set out this year on really a strong commitment and journey to get on the team. I got off to a great start this year. It’s been a really good year, and although I fell just shy of making it on points, it feels great to be a part of this team and serve this team in any way I can.”
DeChambeau barely missed becoming an automatic qualifier, finishing ninth in the standings, and he locked up a spot by excelling in the past two PGA tournaments, which were playoff events for the FedEx Cup. DeChambeau followed a first-place finish in the Northern Trust with another win Monday at the Dell Technologies Championship, and he now has a huge lead atop the season-long FedEx Cup standings.
“I wanted to be a part of this experience so badly that I worked twice as hard,” the 24-year-old DeChambeau said Tuesday of making the Ryder Cup team. “And it showed, and it paid off.”
Following this week’s PGA event, the BMW Championship, Furyk will name the 12th and final member of the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Tony Finau, who was 15th in the standings and has finished in second and tied for fourth in the past two PGA tournaments, is considered a leading contender for that spot, while Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner also figure to receive consideration.
Furyk said that taking Woods’s place as a vice captain will be David Duval, and he also added Zach Johnson and Matt Kuchar as vice captains with the trio joining Davis Love III and Steve Stricker in that role. “Deep down, I wanted to make the team. I really wanted to play on it,” Woods said Tuesday (via ESPN).
Woods added that, back in February, he had “not started playing golf really yet, but still … it was a goal.” He told reporters, “As the year progressed, I’ve kind of gained some traction and was somehow able to get some high finishes. And lo and behold, I’m a part of this team.”
The eight players who qualified for Europe’s team are Francesco Molinari, Justin Rose, Tyrrell Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood, Thorbjorn Olesen, Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy and Alex Noren. Captain Thomas Bjorn is set to announce his at-large picks Wednesday, with some big names in contention, including Henrik Stenson, Ian Poulter, Paul Casey and Sergio Garcia.
The United States is the defending champion, having won in 2016 at Hazeltine in Chaska, Minn., but Europe has taken eight of the past 11 Ryder Cup matchups. The Americans haven’t won on European soil since 1993.
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