Tiger Woods ‘very close’ to earning Ryder Cup spot

Tiger Woods in action during the final round of the 2018 PGA Championship. Picture: Richard Heathcote/Getty
Tiger Woods in action during the final round of the 2018 PGA Championship. Picture: Richard Heathcote/Getty
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Tiger Woods has admitted he is “very close” to clinching a spot on the United States team that will be bidding to win a Ryder Cup match on European soil for the first time in 
25 years.

Eight of the automatic places on Jim Furyk’s side for next month’s clash at Le Golf National outside Paris have been decided, leaving Woods requiring one of four captain’s picks.

The 42-year-old was named by Furyk earlier in the year as one of his vice captains, a role he filled successfully for Davis Love as the Americans ran out 17-11 winners at Hazeltine in September 2016.

However, it seems almost certain that Woods will now be involved in the event in a playing capacity for the first time since 2012 on the back of him having rocketed up the world rankings over the past few months.

The former world No 1 had fallen as low as No 1,999 ahead of his return from his most recent back surgery in the Hero World Challenge at the end of last year.

But, helped by a strong showing in the Open Championship at Carnoustie then finishing second to compatriot Brooks Koepka in the recent US PGA Championship, he is back up to 26th in the global standings.

That effort at Bellerive Country Club in St Louis was his best finish in a major since claiming a similar place in the same event nine years ago and now Woods has the Ryder Cup firmly in his sights heading into the FedEx Cup Play-Offs.

The PGA Tour end-of-season series begins on Thursday with the Northern Trust event at Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, New Jersey, with the Dell Technologies Championship in Boston then BMW Championship in Pennsylvania to follow before the Tour Championship takes place at East Lake in Atlanta the week before the Ryder Cup.

Furyk will announce three of his picks on the Tuesday of the BMW Championship then complete his line-up the following Monday.

“I want to be picked and I want to be part of the team”, said Woods as he spoke to the media, including tourmiss.com, after arriving for his first practice round for this week’s event.

“The interesting role here is that I’m a vice captain, so we’re talking about myself in the third person a lot. So, that’s one of the more interesting conversations we were having.

“We were having a lot of fun with it, but, yeah, I’m one of the guys on the shortlist and sometimes I’ve got to pull myself out of there and talk about myself in the third person, which is a little odd.”

Asked if he had been 
dreaming of securing what would be an eighth Ryder Cup appearance, he replied: “Yes, I do. At the very beginning of the year, I told Jim I wanted to be a part of the team, not just as a vice captain but as a player. I’m very close to making that happen.

“It’s been a long year and one of my goals was to make that team, because to be part of that team, you’ve got to be one of the 12 best players and I’m kind of trending towards that.”

Referring to the FedEx Cup, he continued: “I’m playing the first three right now and that should get me into Atlanta and on the back side is obviously the Ryder Cup. That is a lot of golf and it’s about pacing myself and making sure I don’t practise too much, don’t overdo it, and make sure my training schedule goes well.

“One of the hard things this year is trying to find the right balance, and as the summer has gone on, I’ve gotten better and felt better, and this is a pretty important stretch.”

Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson are both missing this week’s event, the latter apparently due to the same elbow problem that saw him pull out of the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open at Gullane last month.