THE PRESIDENTS CUP
Tiger moves quickly with Presidents Cup backup plan
Woods, the U.S. Team captain, shows leadership replacing injured Koepka with Fowler
November 20, 2019
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
- U.S. Team Captain Tiger Woods with Captain's Assistant Zach Johnson at the 2018 Valspar Championship. (Ryan Young/PGA TOUR)
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Tiger Woods’ meticulous preparation, course management and ability to recover from perilous situations were his greatest strengths as a player. Now they’ve served him well as Presidents Cup captain.
Woods’ team lost the world’s No. 1 player Wednesday, but he acted quickly by naming Rickie Fowler to fill Brooks Koepka’s vacated spot on the U.S. Presidents Cup roster. Some may quibble that Kevin Na or Brendon Todd were more deserving, but Woods’ decisive action displayed why he’s well-suited to be a captain.
Sometimes great players struggle on the sidelines. Those who made it look so easy can have trouble relating to players of lesser skill. Ted Williams is usually offered as the prototypical example. As a captain, Woods has shown the same competitiveness he had as a player, as well as the obsessive work ethic that likely caused his body’s early breakdown. Woods first served as a vice captain at the 2016 Ryder Cup, but the idea of bringing him into the fold started a year earlier when he was texting U.S. captain Jay Haas in the middle of the night during the Presidents Cup in South Korea.
At Hazeltine National, players marveled that arguably the greatest player of all time was willing to fetch them a sandwich. Woods’ preparation also helped captain Davis Love III avoid another Sunday meltdown like the one from four years earlier, when the U.S. team lost a 10-6 lead.
“He had a great system,” Love said in 2016. “It really helped us on Sunday. We had already talked about Sunday pairings so many times that when the crunch time came, we knew what we were doing.”
On the eve of the final day, Woods texted Love at 11:51 p.m. to say, “I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep, there’s no more pairings to make.”
Woods last served as a vice captain at the 2017 Presidents Cup, showing up at Liberty National despite enduring a difficult year when his balky back made it hard to even ride in a golf cart.
Woods, perhaps unfairly, was labeled as a bad team player during his prime, but he’s proven in the last few years that his desire to win extends to the sidelines. His passion for preparation will be especially useful this year as he plays the dual role of player and captain.
“This is the beauty of Tiger Woods,” said Zach Johnson, who will serve as a Captain’s Assistant in this year’s Presidents Cup. “Once he found that news out (about Koepka), he turned the page. He’s like, OK, we were here and now we’re going there. Rickie’s coming in and this is our team. And the entire team has not looked back.”
Love III said Woods picked Koepka’s replacement even before leaving for THE ZOZO Championship in Japan, which Woods won for his record-tying 82nd PGA TOUR victory. Koepka re-injured his knee a week earlier at THE CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES in South Korea.
“Building up the ’16 Ryder Cup, every scenario that could happen in pairings, he had already though it out,” Love said. “Now that he’s in charge, I can’t imagine the notes he has and the information.
“He knew who he was going to pick, who his backup plan was. And now with Brooks, he’s just been sitting on it, waiting for Brooks to say yes or no. … No surprise that Tiger’s on the ball.”