08 Nov 2019 | Professional golf |

Tiger confirms he'll play in Melbourne

by Mark Hayes

Tony Finau, Gary Woodland, Tiger Woods and Patrick Reed have joined the United States Presidents Cup team.
Tony Finau, Gary Woodland, Tiger Woods and Patrick Reed have joined the United States Presidents Cup team.

Tiger Woods will play in Australia next month.

The captain of the United States team for the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne confirmed he would play in the event for a ninth time.

In doing so, the world No.7 will become the first playing captain since Hale Irwin in the inaugural Presidents Cup in 1994.

Woods used his other three selections to choose Tony Finau, Gary Woodland and Patrick Reed, rounding out a powerhouse squad to play from 12-15 December, meaning there will be 21 previous Presidents Cup appearances amongst its members with five players on debut compared to the six of the International team.

Woods, the reigning Masters champion, hasn't played in Australia since the 2011 edition of the Presidents Cup. Remarkably, he will have played in all three editions of the tournament held at the jewel in Melbourne's Sandbelt, including the International team's only victory in 1998.

Woods was uncharacteristically coy when he announced himself as the final selection, even though all those in the team's inner circle had been urging him to do it for months.

"It's weird talking about yourself in the third person," the 15-time major champion said after reeling off a little of his bio to the media conference.

"It was a difficult process ... for me ZOZO (his recent win in Japan) was a big event and it validated that I could still play."

Woods left the door ajar on whether or not the Americans would add an additional vice-captain to Fred Couples, Steve Stricker and Zach Johnson given his own selection.

"It's going to be difficult (to be playing captain), but I have amazing assistants - three great minds to help me out when I'm playing," he said.

"But I just have to play one match (minimum) before singles ... so it's about me getting an understanding of the guys and an understanding of the course ... for all of us to see how it fits.

"It's going to be a lot of work."

Woods said he was in regular contact with world No.1 Brooks Koepka, who's in some doubt after a recent operation on a torn patella tendon in his left knee.

Of the "about five" heart-breaking non-selection phone calls he had to make, Woods singled out Rickie Fowler's omission as particularly tough.

But he wouldn't be drawn on anyone who was in line to replace Koepka should his injury not come up in time to play.

"Technically we can change a player right up until the Wednesday (before the tournament starts) ... but all I've said to Brooks is focus on your rehab and when you get around to playing golf, let me know," Woods said.

"Right now he's in the team."

Finau and Woodland, ranked No.14 and No.16 in the world respectively, were natural selections for their Presidents Cup debuts, Woods said, not only for their stellar seasons, but also because everyone on the team "wants them in the locker room".

He stopped short of that same assessment of Patrick Reed, the world No.15, but said he, too, was an easy teammate to call on given his "all-in" style of play in team events.

"He has an amazingly solid record in (what will be his third) Presidents Cup, he's as fiery as they come and bleeds red, white and blue. He'll do anything to get a point for you."

The automatic selections to complete the American team were Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Cantlay, Webb Simpson and Matt Kuchar.

All 12 of the American team are ranked inside the world's top 22 players, with the International team having just two representatives - Adam Scott and Hideki Matsuyama - before that slot.

Woods said he didn't know if it would be his final time playing in Australia, but logic suggests there won't be many more opportunities for his legion of Aussie fans.

"There's always that chance, but let's just focus on coming to Royal Melbourne and this competition," he said.

"On paper, we certainly have an advantage in world rankings ... but when it comes down to it, and as I've told the guys, when we start on Thursday it's 0-0 and anything can happen."

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