US Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk says Tiger Woods could play and serve as a vice-captain for the Americans if needed at next month’s team showdown against Europe in France.
Woods, a 14-time major winner, must win this week’s PGA Championship to qualify on points. But Furyk makes four captain’s picks next month to complete the lineup and held out hope of double duty for Woods, who has battled back this year from spinal fusion surgery.
“It’s possible he could do both,” Furyk said Wednesday. “Is it best for the team? That’s what we have to consider.”
“He’s a big help in either role. If he’s on the team, he has always been a leader. As a player he plays both roles as well.”
This week’s final major tournament of the year at Bellerive Country Club is the last US team qualifying event. Woods, 42, has not won a major since the 2008 US Open and not won any event since 2013, having missed most of the past two years with back injuries.
The former world number one was only weeks into his latest comeback in January when he brought up the subject of playing with Furyk, who wanted him early on as a vice-captain.
“At the time it took me off guard. He hadn’t played in so long,” Furyk said.
“He knew then that he was on the mend, that he was starting to feel better. He had a plan in place for this year and really felt like he could compete. That was probably a sign that I should have picked up a lot quicker on.”
Woods shared second at the US PGA Valspar Championship in March, fired his best final round in five years in sharing fourth at the National in June and led the British Open on Sunday before sharing sixth last month at Carnoustie.
“By March I saw that his game was in a lot better shape and his health was in a lot better shape,” Furyk said. “So he has been challenging this year and moving up that points list, which has been fun to watch.”
Furyk wants to confirm his first eight players Monday before thinking about captain’s picks, but he has already pondered a place for 51st-ranked Woods.
“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.
So trying to interpret whether he’s done enough or not done enough – I’ve obviously thought about it — but it’s a position that I don’t have to put myself in now.”
Woods would still have two US PGA playoff events to impress Furyk if he doesn’t win this week.
“We still get to see weeks ahead in big tournaments,” Furyk said. “And being 20th on the points with very few events is a pretty good spot.”
© Agence France-Presse (additional edits from Chris Kelleher)