Monday 24 September 2018

Tiger Woods to be replaced as Ryder Cup vice-captain with Jim Furyk prepared to pick 'priceless' teammate

Tiger Woods celebrates a birdie putt on the 18th green during the final round of the PGA Championship. Photo: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
Tiger Woods celebrates a birdie putt on the 18th green during the final round of the PGA Championship. Photo: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

James Corrigan

Tiger Woods has been all but confirmed as a captain's pick for his first Ryder Cup in six years at next month's match in Paris, in the wake of his extraordinary performance at the US PGA.

In finishing runner-up to fellow American Brooks Koepka at Bellerive, Woods recorded his best Major finish since 2009. On the back of his sixth place at last month's Open, it capped the 42-year-old's astonishing comeback from a back complaint, which appeared to have wrecked his career.

Certainly United States captain Jim Furyk was impressed by Woods, who has risen to 26 in the world rankings, having been outside the top 1,100 nine months ago.

Sunday's 64, his lowest final round in a Major, was not enough to earn an automatic berth at Le Golf National. He climbed to 11th in the standings, with the top eight qualifying at the conclusion of the season's final Major.

Furyk resisted stating unequivocally that he would be one of his four wildcards, but his words in yesterday's press conference in St Louis left no doubt, as did the fact he is preparing to sign up another vice-captain to replace Woods.

The 14-time Major winner was appointed in Furyk's backroom in February when nobody - apart from maybe Woods himself - gave him a prayer of teeing it up in the Stars and Stripes for the first time since the Miracle of Medinah.

That seems a long time ago, with Woods posting five top-sixes since.

"What's important is how well Tiger has played," Furyk said. "Sixth place at the Open, second place at the PGA. The word he used is 'trending'. His game is trending and it is great to see him playing well. We want the players who are going to help us be successful. I realise he is playing very well and I am excited to see that."

Woods has reiterated his desire to play, although he also wishes to fulfil a dual role and keep the job of vice-captain. Yet Furyk wants as much assistance as he can muster as the US try to win on European soil for the first time in 25 years.

"Tiger's been a vice-captain in the team room as a player," Furyk said. "He's priceless, to be honest. He's been really a big help to our captains in 2016 (Ryder Cup) and 2017 (Presidents Cup) from a strategy perspective and also serving on the course, walking with players.

"It's been a big boost having the best player maybe ever to live following your group and being there for support.

"But Tiger serves that purpose as a vice-captain or a player and I'm looking forward to having his help."

Automatically

Furyk was supposed to be in the media centre at Bellerive discussing the players who qualified automatically. Webb Simpson kept hold of the last spot, meaning that the side already contains seven Major winners. Koepka finished top of the standings courtesy of his second Major of the season.

But as brilliant as the 28-year-old was and is, it was Woods's resurrection that created the biggest stir. Nick Faldo was in Missouri providing analysis for CBS and as the network reported its biggest audience figures for a US PGA since Woods was last in contention nine years ago, when he was beaten by Y E Yang, it was smiles all round.

However, Faldo was shocked. Like everyone, he watched Woods descend into a pitiful figure who could barely walk and developed a dependency on painkillers. It was only 15 months ago when he was arrested after being found slumped over the steering wheel of his car.

But if his powers of recovery from that grim scenario were remarkable then so, too, were his escapology feats in St Louis. Woods did not hit his first fairway until the 10th, but by then was three-under for the day with eight one-putts.

"I didn't think he had a hope in hell of winning another Major and now you have to say he does," Faldo said. "But his determination to get back and all his efforts is incredible. He is done, doomed and then suddenly he is two-under par. He is unbelievable.

"This is the greatest comeback in golf. If he wins again, it would be the greatest comeback in sport. He now knows he can win again. He shot 64 and if you had dropped anyone else in those positions they would have shot a 74. He is an absolute lock for the Ryder Cup, a 100pc lock."

Furyk will name his first three wildcards in three weeks' time and then his final pick a week later. Woods is due to play next week at the Northern Trust Open in New Jersey, the first event of the FedEx Cup play-off series which features four events in five weeks with a $10 million (€8.7m) bonus for the winner.

The Ryder Cup follows immediately afterwards. "Just to be part of the conversation for the Ryder Cup is great," Woods said. Correction: Woods is the conversation. (© The Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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