Captain Tiger’s tough Presidents Cup call
TIGER Woods is still facing a clutch call on whether to include himself as playing captain at the President's Cup now the US have unveiled a stellar top eight for Royal Melbourne.
Because of waning results and recent muscle pains since his Masters triumph in April, Woods has dipped to 13th on the rankings order for the hot-shot American team for the showpiece from December 12-15.
While the Americans now have eight players locked in, Woods must decide himself in November whether he picks himself as one of his discretionary captain's calls.
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If the rankings don't change, Woods would have to pick himself ahead of power-striker Tony Finau, US Open champion Gary Woodland, Rickie Fowler or Patrick Reed to extend his storied history as a President's Cup trump.
Ernie Els' Internationals team will have to pull off a major upset whichever way the call goes.
Every player in the American top eight is a world top-20 player while top duo Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas will be fearless playing Royal Melbourne' slick greens for the first time as they are everywhere.
Only South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen has a winning record in President's Cup play among the four stalwarts of the Internationals team confirmed on Monday and only in-form Adam Scott (No.15) is in the top 20 now Jason Day is struggling.
Oosthuizen told Channel 9 on Monday he was unconvinced that Woods would play
"I think it's so difficult if he picks himself," Oosthuizen said.
"As a captain, if you look what they have to do all the time to get the team ready for the next session, I don't know how it's going to work if he's a playing captain.
"He's definitely good enough to make the team but we'll see who he picks."
Day was not an automatic pick but is a certain captain's pick who has to rediscover the form of his superb 2013 play around Royal Melbourne as winner of the World Cup of Golf.
The Internationals' four first-timers are Mexico's polished Australian Open champion Abraham Ancer, Chinese talent Haotong Li, Chinese Taipei's CT Pan and young Queenslander Cameron Smith.
Having three Aussies on the team with Scott, Victorian Marc Leishman, on one of his favourite courses, and Smith is the engine room.
Els already has Smith and Leishman in mind as a foursomes and four-ball team to get a fast start which has so often been lacking for the Internationals.
"Cameron can really make a difference for us. With Marc Leishman last year, they played good at the World Cup of Golf (at Metropolitan) and they are very familiar with the golf course," Els said.
"I'm looking for the Australians to have a good week because, if they can, the fans will be really involved.
"Adam is very vocal and very much up for it. He's the pillar of this team."
Scott is on his ninth President's Cup squad but is yet to savour a team victory.
"Ernie is really bringing some good energy and effort to this team and there are definitely some new faces on board so maybe this is the start of young blood," Scott said.
Woods said multiple major winner Koepka would be a dominant force.
"What he's done the last couple years has been truly remarkable in major championships. He's beaten all of us, and what he brings to the team is that toughness that we want, that fire, but he's also got that calmness, too," Woods said.
Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Webb Simpson, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau
Potential captain's picks (4 in November): Tony Finau, Gary Woodland, Rickie Fowler, Patrick Reed, Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth
Team Captain: Tiger Woods
Marc Leishman (Aus), Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn), Louis Oosthuizen (S Af), Adam Scott (Aus), Abraham Ancer (Mex), Haotong Li (China), CT Pan (Taipei), Cameron Smith (Aus)
Potential captain's picks (4 in November): Jason Day (Aus), Branden Grace (S Af), Sungjae Im (Kor), Byeong Hun An (Kor), Jazz Janewattananond (Thai).