NEW YORK (Reuters) - Former world number one Tiger Woods is taking on the role of U.S. tactician for next month’s Ryder Cup against holders Europe, says captain Davis Love III.
Fourteen-times major winner Woods has been sidelined for almost a year as he recovers from multiple back operations and seems to have spent much of his time away from the circuit thinking about how the Americans can regain the trophy.
“He’s been texting me some pairings and some groupings,” Love told Sky Sports television of one of his vice-captains. “He’s put a lot of thought into it and he’s kind of our tactician.
“He’s probably one of the most prepared guys when he shows up at a golf tournament. He’s already picked his four wild cards... he knows who he wants to watch, who he wants to manage and who he’ll get along well with.”
U.S. Open winner Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickelson, U.S. PGA champion Jimmy Walker, Brooks Koepka, Zach Johnson, JB Holmes and Brandt Snedeker currently occupy the automatic eight qualifying berths for the 12-man American team.
Bubba Watson, Patrick Reed, Matt Kuchar and Rickie Fowler are the next four players in the points list and look best-placed to receive a wild card pick.
Europe’s top nine are Rory McIlroy, U.S. Masters champion Danny Willett, British Open winner Henrik Stenson, Chris Wood, Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Andy Sullivan and Matt Fitzpatrick.
The holders are currently loaded with rookies in the form of Willett, Wood, Cabrera-Bello, Sullivan and Fitzpatrick so captain Darren Clarke may prefer to go for experience with his three wild cards.
Ryder Cup stalwarts Lee Westwood (12th) and Martin Kaymer (13th) are high up the standings and will be hopeful of a pick.
Dane Soren Kjeldsen and Tyrrell Hatton of Britain are 10th and 11th respectively but the fact that they have never experienced a Ryder Cup match could count against them.
Europe’s talisman Ian Poulter, who has won 14 points from a possible 18 in his career, will be missing this time because of arthritic problems in his right foot.
Clarke is due to name his wild card picks in the last week of August while Love will make his four selections next month.
The Ryder Cup, which will be played at Hazeltine, Minnesota, starts on Sept. 30.
Writing by Tony Jimenez; Editing by Ken Ferris