(Reuters) - United States captain Davis Love III, looking for passion and experience, has appointed 14-times major winner Tiger Woods as one of five vice-captains for next year’s Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National in Chaska, Minnesota.
Woods, 39, is a veteran of seven Ryder Cups as a player, most recently in 2012 under Love’s captaincy, and is battling to recover from a nagging back injury that led him to undergo two surgeries over the past two months.
Love also announced on Wednesday that Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk would be vice-captains, joining Tom Lehman who was introduced in February as the first of five assistants under a new management system unveiled by the PGA of America to help revive U.S. fortunes.
The Americans will be bidding to end a dismal stretch of eight defeats by Europe in the last 10 editions of the biennial team competition when the 2016 Ryder Cup is held from Sept. 30-Oct. 2, and hope to benefit from several changes made following the recommendations of a task force that was assembled.
“These three guys, joining Tom Lehman, will send a message to our team that we are really serious about this Ryder Cup,” Love said during a news conference on the eve of this week’s RSM Classic, the PGA Tour event which he hosts at Sea Island Golf Club on St. Simons Island, Georgia.
“We are ahead of the game this time and it lets potential team members know that we are going to do whatever it takes to put them in the best position to win in 2016.”
Furyk, 45, has played in nine consecutive Ryder Cups while Stricker, 48, who has represented his country three times in the team competition, will repeat the role he served as an assistant to then-captain Tom Watson at Gleneagles in Scotland last year.
“Two things that excite me about these vice-captains is ... to a man, they said, ‘We will do anything you ask us to do to make this Ryder Cup successful’,” said Love.
”And second, these four guys bring over 50 years of combined Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup experience to the table, so I have surrounded myself with passionate people who have a tremendous amount of matchplay experience.
“They’ll also be my eyes and ears from event to event next year on Tour. That’s invaluable and, as captain, I am grateful for their commitment, dedication and passion to win.”
Woods said in a statement: ”I’d like to thank Davis for his confidence in me and for my selection as a Ryder Cup vice-captain. This is something I want to do.
“I will continue to do whatever I can to help win the Cup back. Once I‘m fully healthy, I’d like to try to make the team too, but either way, I‘m very excited to work with Davis, the other vice-captains and the players to get a U.S. victory.”
It will be the second time Love, 51, has led the team in the biennial event as he guided the U.S. to a 10-6 lead heading into the final day in 2012 but lost by 14-1/2 points to 13-1/2 in what is known to European fans as the “Miracle of Medinah”.
The Americans were then beaten by 16-1/2 points to 11-1/2 in last year’s Ryder Cup at Gleneagles where five-times major winner Phil Mickelson was scathing of the often aloof approach used by U.S. captain Watson.
Under the immensely popular Love at Medinah, the American team felt fully involved with every aspect of that year’s Ryder Cup and, to a man, they agreed their captain had done everything in his power to create a winning strategy.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue