LOS ANGELES, Aug 25 (Reuters): United States captain Fred Couples ended speculation over whether Tiger Woods might be selected for the Presidents Cup in November by saying on Thursday the former world number one would be a wildcard pick.
Woods had been eager to take part in the Ryder Cup-style competition against the Internationals in Australia but had no chance of gaining automatic selection after struggling for form and fitness this season.
The leading 10 players in the U.S. Presidents Cup standings after the Sept. 15-18 BMW Championship qualify for the 12-man team, with Couples adding two captain’s picks on Sept. 26. Woods lies 28th in the standings.
“I’ve told him he’s going to be on the team,” Couples said during a news conference while preparing for Friday’s opening round of the Champions Tour’s Boeing Classic at the TPC Snoqualmie Ridge in Snoqualmie, Washington.
“There is no reason for me to wait till Sept. 26 to pick Tiger. He’s the best player in the world forever.”
Woods has played on every U.S. Presidents Cup team since 1998 but he has been a shadow of his former dominant self since the end of 2009 while trying to rebuild his golf swing and private life following the breakup of his marriage.
His world ranking has slipped to 36th and he failed to qualify for the PGA Tour’s elite FedExCup playoffs after missing the cut at this month’s PGA Championship. His next scheduled event is the Nov. 10-13 Australian Open.
Before last week’s Senior Players Championship, Couples made his own intentions clear as to what he expected from the rusty Woods.
“He can’t just show up the week before in Australia,” Couples said. “I have made it clear that whoever I picked will be playing the Australian tournament the week before. But I need him to play more than just there.”
Asked on Thursday about the extra event he had urged Woods to play, Couples replied: “He has responded to that. I’m pretty sure you’ll see him one more time. That’s enough for me.
“The last thing he wants to do is embarrass himself. I think he’ll be ready to play. Does that mean he’s going to go out and win every point? No, I don’t expect that. But I expect him to be sharp and ready to play. I’d be shocked if he’s not.”
Woods’s biggest problems this year have been injury and lack of practice. He was sidelined for three months while recovering from the left knee ligaments and Achilles tendon he hurt during the Masters in April, when he tied for fourth.
“Is he playing well right now? No,” said Couples. “(But) he almost won (the Masters) four months ago and you don’t do that by playing poor golf.
“When you’re the best player in the world for 12 straight years and you’re not on a team, there’s something wrong.”