Tiger Woods selection is tough call for Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk

ST LOUIS, MISSOURI - AUGUST 12: Tiger Woods of the United States in action during the final round of the 2018 PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club on August 12, 2018 in St Louis, Missouri.(Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
ST LOUIS, MISSOURI - AUGUST 12: Tiger Woods of the United States in action during the final round of the 2018 PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club on August 12, 2018 in St Louis, Missouri.(Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images) /

U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk has some difficult decisions to make in filling out the team that will go to Paris in September. Among them: will Tiger Woods be one of his captain’s picks?

U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk found out Sunday the first eight players that will go to Paris in September. Now comes the hard part, finding the four others that will complete the team.

One name in particular stands out among those who just missed out on the eight automatic qualifying spots. Tiger Woods finished 11th in points after a second place finish at the PGA Championship on Sunday, but the fact he is even that high is surprising given what he has gone through to get there.

A year ago a series of back injuries made it uncertain whether Woods would ever play on the PGA Tour again. Not only did he get back on tour, he is playing like his old self. His runner-up finish at Bellerive Country Club came after a sixth place showing at the Open Championship in July and another second place at the Valspar Championship in March.

Furyk, speaking to reporters at a press conference on Monday, says that will be a bigger factor in whether Woods makes the team than his current standing on the points list.

“I’m not sure numbers are that important, as I look down the list. What is important is how well Tiger has played,” Furyk said. “His game, I think the word he used was ‘trending.’ His game is trending. So it’s great to see him playing well. For me the numbers, they’re nice, good to look at, but not always the most important. We want the players who are going to help us be successful.”

Woods hasn’t represented the U.S. in a team event since the 2013 Presidents Cup. He was a vice-captain at the 2016 Ryder Cup and 2017 Presidents Cup, and is slated to be an assistant to Furyk again this year. Furyk, however, says that Woods will be replaced as vice-captain if he makes the team as a player.

The top eight players on the points list after the PGA Championship have already earned a spot on the team. Among them are U.S. Open and PGA champion Brooks Koepka, World No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Masters champion Patrick Reed. There is also Justin Thomas, two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson and three-time major champion Jordan Spieth. Rickie Fowler is on the team, as is Players champion Webb Simpson.

Furyk says he’s excited about the players who are on the team. He knows the Americans will face a hostile environment at Le Golf National, and says these eight fit the mold of what he was looking for.

“I wanted guys that really enjoy that atmosphere,” he said. “These eight guys, when I look at them, these are guys that enjoy that challenge. I’m excited to have them on the team.”

The list of players who fell short, however, is almost as prestigious as those who made it and gives Furyk plenty of options. Phil Mickelson, 10th in points, has played on every Ryder Cup team since 1995. Mickelson ended a nearly five-year winless drought with a victory at the WGC-Mexico Championship in March, but has just one top 10 since.

Xander Schauffele, 2017 PGA Rookie of the Year, is 12th. Matt Kuchar has played in four straight Ryder Cups, but will need Furyk to pick him if he wants to extend that streak to five. Rising stars like Bryson DeChambeau and Tony Finau also just missed out on making their first Ryder Cup team.

Furyk will make his first three picks after the Dell Technologies Championship on Sept. 4. The final pick will be made on Sept. 10, after the BMW Championship. He says he will consider several different factors when making his decision.

“I’ll be looking at guys that have had a great body of work this year,” he said. “Guys that are playing well and may be hot players at the time. I’m looking at pairings, looking at who fits in well with these eight players. And I’m also looking at the golf course. Le Golf National is a wonderful golf course, in my opinion, but it suits a certain style of player.”

Most of all, Furyk says, he’s looking for players that will help the Americans win.

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“It’s my job to round this team out in the best possible way, and these four players that we will add, I think, will give us the best opportunity to be successful.”

As for whether Woods fits that description, Furyk isn’t giving much away. “He’s playing very well. I think there’s probably a lot of folks out there who think he can help us,” he said.

The first spots on the European team, captained by Thomas Bjorn, will be determined on Sept. 2.

The Ryder Cup begins Sept. 28 at Le Golf National outside Paris. The U.S. is defending champion after a 17-11 victory at Hazeltine in 2016, but haven’t won on European soil since 1993.