Task force's latest move involves Tiger
Love makes 'incredible statement' by naming Woods, Stricker and Furyk as vice captains
November 18, 2015
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
- On Wednesday, Tiger Woods (left) and Steve Stricker were named assistant captains for the 2016 Ryder Cup. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – It was 5:30 in the morning in South Korea, and Fred Couples had a message to deliver to Davis Love III.
“Tiger wants you to call him.”
Woods, sidelined with a back injury, was an interested observer of last month’s Presidents Cup, and interested in another upcoming international competition. Woods wanted to know how he could help Love with next year’s Ryder Cup.
The answer was officially announced Wednesday in a news conference at The RSM Classic. Love, the 2016 Ryder Cup captain, named Woods as a vice captain, along with Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker.
RELATED: Love names three more vice captains
“I will continue to do whatever I can to help win the Cup back,” Woods said in a statement. The 2016 Ryder Cup will be played Sept. 7-Oct. 2 at Hazeltine Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota.
A fifth assistant captain will be announced at a later date.
“I understand that this is the first time we’ve announced these assistant captains this early,” Love said. “I think it’s important that we do so at this time because these guys can help me over the next year. They can be out on TOUR talking to players.
“(It’s) going to make an incredible statement to our players that, hey, these guys are ready to go. We’re excited about it. We have a game plan.”
Woods has undergone two back surgeries in the past two months, but Love said the 14-time major winner still hopes to play his way onto the team. If he does, he won’t relinquish his new role. He’ll serve as a playing assistant. Woods has been part of the Ryder Cup task force created by the U.S. after its five-point loss to Europe last year in Scotland.
“Tiger wants to be a leader of that group, but he wants to do it from on the golf course,” Love said. “From before we even started this task force, Tiger was the one in my ear all the time about … the things we need to do. He really loves being involved.”
Furyk and Stricker told Love they’d relinquish their roles if they qualify for the team. Stricker, who turns 49 in February, plays sparingly and hasn’t represented the United States since the 2013 Presidents Cup. He’s being groomed for a likely captaincy in the 2020 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in his home state of Wisconsin.
He and Furyk were captain’s assistants at this year’s Presidents Cup, which the U.S. won by one point over the International Team.
Furyk didn’t become a captain’s assistant until a wrist injury kept him from playing, though. He’s another strong candidate for a future captaincy, but the 45-year-old also is the world’s ninth-ranked player and currently ranked 10th in Ryder Cup points.
As for that yet-to-be-named fifth assistant? “What about Phil?” was the obvious question after Love’s announcement. Mickelson told Love he would like to focus on playing his way on the team.
Mickelson was a captain’s pick for this year’s Presidents Cup. He went 3-0-1 in South Korea.
“He walked off 18 green saying, ‘I’m ready for the Ryder Cup,’” said Love, who was a Presidents Cup captain’s assistant. “I know it was a year away. He’s focused on playing.”
Mickelson recently announced his split with swing coach Butch Harmon as he tries to win on TOUR for the first time since the 2013 Open Championship. Mickelson has represented the United States in international competition since 1994.
The United States has lost eight of the last 10 Ryder Cups and is seeking its first Ryder Cup victory since 2008. The task force is focused on finding new ways to help the United States improve its fortunes. As former European captain Tony Jacklin recently told Love, “Leave no stone unturned.” In that vein, Love has already visited Hazeltine three times.
One of the committee’s first moves was naming Love as the captain for a second time. He also was at the helm in 2012, when the United States built a 10-6 lead at Medinah before a final-day meltdown. Players praised Love’s captaincy, though, because of how he involved them in decisions. The task force also announced that it wanted future captains to first serve as assistant captains, creating a continuity similar to how Europe grooms its leaders.
In February, Love named Tom Lehman, captain of the 2006 Ryder Cup team, as his first assistant captain. Lehman is a Minnesota native.
“Tom Lehman has put more work into this than maybe me,” Love said. “He’s out there looking at hotels and looking at restaurants and trying to tell me how to drive from the hotel to the golf course. … He is on it.”
All in the name of leaving no stone unturned.