Saturday 20 October 2018

Jim Furyk open to Tiger Woods taking on dual role at September's Ryder Cup

Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods

James Corrigan

Importantly for Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk was not of those who rolled their eyeballs when the 14-time major-winner announced his intention to make history by both playing and being a vice captain at the Ryder Cup in September.

Indeed, the US captain declared on Friday that he is open to the idea, despite Woods mising the cut at the Genesis Open here on Friday.

Furyk will on Tuesday unveil a few more of his backroom staff for the match in Paris, where the Americans will try to win their first match on European soil in 25 years. It is understood that Woods will be announced alongside Steve Stricker and Davis Love.

But Woods - who has been playing here at the Genesis Open in just his second full-field appearance in more than a year – has informed Furyk he wants to take the unprecedented dual role at Le Golf National.

“I don’t think it’s impossible,” Furyk said. “It could happen, but we’re in February. He’s played one event and looked pretty solid and now we’re talking Ryder Cup. It just shows you how good he’s been.”

The 42-year-old fired a discouraging second round 76 here at Riviera, leaving him stranded on six-over. Woods has entered next week’s Honda Classic, near his home in West Palm Beach, and insists he has is not despondent, having lowered his expectations after last year’s spinal fusion operation.

Woods tied for 23rd at the Farmers Insurance Open three weeks ago and so provided evidence that he might at last have fully recovered from the back problems which have blighted his last three years.

“I haven't played golf in years, but I'm starting to come back and it's going to take a little time,” he said. “I am progressing, I'm starting to get a feel for tournament golf again. I just need to clean up my rounds.”

Furyk is determined that his former partner will be in that teamroom after seeing the positive effect Woods had on the younger US players when acting as vice captain at the 2016 Ryder Cup and last year’s Presidents Cup. It was at the latter where Furyk and Woods initially discussed the scenario.

“What we decided is to kind of let nature take its course,” Furyk revealed. “I’d love to have him be part of the team. We said we’d cross that path when we got there. But he’s been a huge asset on the American side the last couple of years, whether he’s playing or not. I want to see how the year goes.”

Furyk has already made it easier for Woods to move into the frame. On taking over from Love in the wake of the Hazeltine win, Furyk tweaked the qualifying system to place more emphasis on form in the actual year of the biennial dust-up.

It has made the standings look much more volatile and although he is currently down in 104th in the standings, Woods would quickly jump towards the automatic top eight if he puts a good run together.

Admittedly that seemed a sizeable “if” when he prematurely exited the gates here on Friday night. The slow play and fading light meant that 15 players will have to return to the course at 7.15 am on Saturday morning to complete their rounds.

Sam Saunders is one of these and on seven-under with three holes remaining, Arnold Palmer’s grandson is in a tie for the lead with another American in Patrick Cantlay and Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell.

This has been such a welcome return to form for McDowell, the 2010 US Open champion who has missed his last four cuts. His five-under 66 was lowest round of the day and completely belied his world ranking of 219.

“I've got a lot of work to do this year, and it may not happen this weekend, but the way I'm practicing, it's only a matter of time before good things start to happen,” McDowell said. “I’m super patient.”

McDowell’s friend and countryman Rory McIlroy is in touch on two-under, following a 69, as is England’s Tommy Fleetwood, on one-under, after a 71.

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