MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Tiger Woods selected himself as one of his four captain’s picks to play for the United States in the next month’s Presidents Cup against the International team and said he was confident his creaky knee could stand up to the strain.
The 15-times major champion also named Tony Finau, Patrick Reed and Gary Woodland for the biennial tournament which pits the United States against a team representing the rest of the world minus Europe.
Woods will be the first playing captain since Hale Irwin led the Americans to a 20-12 win in the inaugural event in Virginia in 1994 and recently issued a timely reminder of his class by winning the Zozo Championship in Japan.
That victory saw him tie Sam Snead’s record of 82 PGA Tour wins and also gave him confidence in his left knee two months after having undergone arthroscopic surgery.
“The long haul to Australia is very much like the one to Japan, and seeing how my body felt and how I reacted in Japan and how I was able to play, it certainly gives me a lot of confidence that it will hold up over the long haul down to Australia,” he told reporters on a conference call on Friday.
“It’s going to be difficult, but also I have three amazing assistants with Fred (Couples), Strick (Steve Stricker) and Zach (Johnson), and that helps a lot.”
Woods overlooked Ryder and Presidents Cup mainstay Rickie Fowler, who has not played since the Tour Championship .
Former world number one Jordan Spieth was also omitted for the Dec. 12-15 tournament at Royal Melbourne after struggling through a difficult season.
There may yet be another addition to the team, pending the fitness of world number one Brooks Koepka, who aggravated a knee problem when he slipped on wet concrete during the CJ Cup in South Korea three weeks ago.
“I did have coffee with ‘Brooksy’ this morning,” said Woods.
“All I can tell you is he’s rehabbing and he’s trying to get better, trying to get ready and let him focus on that. Just let him do that and put energy into that.”
Woods has a Presidents Cup record of 24 wins, 15 losses and one halved match and knows Royal Melbourne well having played there in the 1998 event and rolling in the winning putt at the same venue in 2011.
Woods was cautious about how much he would play, however, noting that he would only need to meet a two-match minimum according to the competition’s rules.
Featuring seven players in the top 10, the United States play an International team with none, and so will be heavily favored to continue a winning record dating back to 2005.
“Yeah, on paper, we certainly have the advantage in the world rankings,” said Woods.
“When it comes right down to it, like I told the guys, when you start out on Thursday, it’s 0-0. We have to go out and win this Cup.”
Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford