Apparently recovered from the minor knee surgery he underwent in August, Woods went on to write about how he hoped to play well in his upcoming tournament in Japan and about how he planned to help his guys stay sharp by playing a few matches with them. The rest of the blog post was spent praising the abilities of his players, talking about the tough choices he’ll have to make with his captain’s picks and how the Royal Melbourne course should be quite the challenge. It all seemed to be a pleasantly benign message from a guy who doesn’t usually reveal very much about himself.
But as always, you have to read until the end:
With the golf-blog equivalent of an “Avengers” end-credit scene, Woods seems to be saying that he will be choosing himself as one of his four captain’s choice picks for the Presidents Cup, the biennial match-play competition pitting a team from the United States against a team of golfers from the rest of the world excepting Europe.
Woods, who memorably won the Masters in April but played sparingly the rest of the season, finished 13th in the U.S. Presidents Cup team standings, with the top eight receiving automatic bids. Between Woods and the top eight stand, in order from ninth down, Tony Finau, Gary Woodland, Rickie Fowler and Patrick Reed, and Woods made sure to mention all of those players along with a few others in his blog post on Thursday.
“At the end of the day, the decision of who rounds out this team will ultimately be my call, but I’m going to lean heavily on the opinions of my captain’s assistants and the eight guys who have already earned a spot,” he wrote. “My plan is to keep an open line of communication to ensure we find the four guys who best fit this team. We will be watching the fall events closely. There are so many guys who are world-class players who aren’t yet on the team like Rickie Fowler, Tony Finau, Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed, Gary Woodland, Jordan Spieth and many more. The Fall events will also allow me to get extended looks at two young rookies, Matthew Wolff and Collin Morikawa, who both played well after turning pro late in the season.”
While Woods apparently has decided that he himself would be a “best fit,” his other three choices will be tough indeed.
* Fowler: Seven top 10s last season, with one coming at the Masters and another at the British Open, but he’s just 6-10-6 all-time in Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup competition.
* Finau: Top 5 finishes at the Masters and British Open and closed the season strong in the FedEx Cup playoffs, but his international experience is limited to last year’s Ryder Cup (he went 2-1, however).
* Woodland: This year’s U.S. Open champion. Has never played in the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup.
* Reed: Went on a late-season tear and finished ninth in the FedEx Cup playoffs. Also 11-5-4 all-time in international play, earning the nickname “Captain America.” But his public airing of grievances about his playing partners after last year’s Ryder Cup — he told the New York Times that Woods was his “second choice” of playing partners, among other things — may be a strike against him.
* Mickelson: Had a simply dismal PGA Tour season apart from a win at Pebble Beach early on. Also lost both matches at last year’s Ryder Cup. Still, he’s 25-16-13 all-time at the Presidents Cup, and he and Woods seem to be on pretty friendly terms at the moment.
* Spieth: An all-over-the-place season was salvaged only by superb putting (Spieth ranked second on tour in strokes gained: putting for the year). He’s 15-9-3 in international play.
This year’s Presidents Cup doesn’t start until Dec. 12, so Woods has plenty of time to choose. It just seems as if he has 25 percent less choosing to do.