Just days from the cutoff to qualify for the U.S. Ryder Cup team, captain Jim Furyk weighed in on the prospect of Tiger Woods making the team and what to expect heading into the PGA Championship.
One question facing Furyk is whether Woods — a vice captain — must recuse himself from discussing himself as a potential pick?
Furyk says he went through that very thing when David Love was captain.
“I did have to recuse myself when he and Tom Lehman and the other vice-captains were discussing,” said Furyk. “There was a time where the three of us were sitting in a conference room and I went to the bathroom and came back 10 minutes later to give them an opportunity to speak. It’s an awkward situation.”
“I’ve known Tiger for a long time, and we’re friends. I respect him — it’s not going to be a difficult process as far as him recusing himself. We’ll work through those situations and issues much like Davis and I did in the past.”
And speaking of Woods potentially being a captain’s pick …
“As far as the captain’s pick part of it, it has been fun watching him play this summer. We had a conversation back in January about being a vice-captain. I wanted to name him in that position. We talked about him possibly playing. He knew then that he was on the mend, that he was starting to feel better. That was probably a sign that I should have picked up a lot quicker on. I know that Tiger always wanted to compete, but I saw that his game was in a lot better shape and his health was in a lot better shape. And so he’s been challenging this year in moving up the points list, which has been fun to watch.”
“As far as where we sit right now, the good news is that I’m excited about looking at these top eight. I’m excited about seeing what we have at the end of this week. From that point on, I have three or four weeks before I have to make those picks. Trying to interpret whether he has done enough or not done enough is really … I’m anxious. I guess he would have to win this week I believe to make the team on his own. And if he doesn’t, we still get to see weeks ahead in big tournaments. But surely, it’s fun to see him put himself in the mix.”
The 42nd Ryder Cup will be held at Le Golf National in Paris this September.
As Furyk mentioned, the U.S. roster has four spots determined and four more will be finalized after the PGA Championship. The other four will be captain’s picks made in the following weeks.
“I like the players we have, but we’ll be looking to fill that in,” said Furyk. “I’m looking for 12 guys that will accept the challenge ahead of us, because it’s been 25 years. They’ve had a lot of success, not only in the Ryder Cup, but at home. And we’ll be looking to try and break that.”
“There’s really not a number (of potential picks he’s choosing from),” Furyk said. “Has it narrowed down some? It has. We’ve had a whole season to watch these guys play. You want guys that are in good form, say from the summer time on. You want guys that have had a good, solid season. You want the very best players that you can trust in as well. I think the list has been narrowed, but it’s still open.”
“It’s stressful” for players on the bubble with two weeks to go, Furyk acknowledged.
“You’re already on edge going into a major championship. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves as players and then it’s like there’s two scoreboards. One for playing, and then maybe you’re checking out the guys around you.”
“It definitely becomes that tournament within the tournament. You really just need to go out there and do your job.”
Furyk is playing the first two rounds of the PGA Championship with Tony Finau and Xander Schaufelle, two guys who could be in the mix as captain’s picks, but Furyk says that wasn’t by his design.
“I did not ask for that, I never asked to be paired with anyone on Tour this year,” Furky said. “I think it’s a great pairing for me. It probably isn’t the best pairing for them. I know what they’re going through – I hope it doesn’t phase them, I hope it doesn’t bother them. I want them to enjoy the PGA Championship and worry about winning a major championship.
“I guess I’m thankful for it.”
Furyk expects a rousing battle when the teams face off in September.
“I think you’ve got a battle of two giants,” Furyk said. “You look at the world rankings right now, you look at the top 20 players – they’re dominated by Europeans and Americans. So you’ve got two very, very solid teams.
“They’re going to have a really strong team. In theory, possibly the strongest team that Europe has ever fielded. We have our hands full. A partisan crowd. A golf course that they know and love very well. They have the home-course advantage. We have our hands full.”
Justin Thomas moved into third place in the United States team points race and clinched his Ryder Cup spot on Monday, the day after winning the World Golf Championships – Bridgestone Invitational by four shots in Akron, Ohio.
The victory also moved Thomas past England’s Justin Rose to No. 2 in the official world golf rankings. Dustin Johnson remained in the No. 1 spot.
Thomas vaulted past Masters champion Patrick Reed in the Ryder Cup standings. However, Reed also has secured his spot on the U.S. team along with the top-ranked Johnson and No. 2 Brooks Koepka. The other four automatic spots currently would go to Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Webb Simpson.
Bryson DeChambeau, who carded three rounds in the 60s after opening with a 75 in Akron, is at No. 9, followed by Phil Mickelson, Schauffele, Matt Kuchar and Finau. Woods remained at No. 20 following his tie for 31st. He’s 63 points behind Zach Johnson and also dropped one spot to No. 51 in the world.
After the four automatic spots are earned this week, three additional spots will be named by Furyk following the Dell Technologies Championship, scheduled to finish on Sept. 3, with the final spot set to be announced after the BMW Championship the following week.
The four majors in 2018 are weighted heavily in the U.S. Ryder Cup team points race, with winners receiving two points per $1,000 earned at the Masters, U.S. Open, Open Championship and PGA Championship, and all other players receiving 1.5 points per $1,000 earned. That’s compared to one point per every $1,000 earned in regular PGA Tour events in 2018 leading up to the Aug. 12 cutoff.
–Field Level Media