By Andrew Both
ST. LOUIS (Reuters) – Tiger Woods has earned a spot on the American Ryder Cup team with his recent hot form, captain Jim Furyk hinted on Monday.
Speaking 14 hours after the PGA Championship, where Woods finished second to fellow American Brooks Koepka, Furyk said form was an important factor in determining his four captain’s picks.
Former world number one Woods finished 11th in the U.S. standings, not among the eight players who qualified automatically after the PGA Championship.
Furyk would not be pinned down on whether Woods was guaranteed a place in the team, skirting the question, no doubt cognisant of the diplomacy his job requires.
“I’m not sure numbers are all that important. What is important is how well Tiger has played,” Furyk said.
“His game is trending. It’s great to see him playing well. For me the numbers are nice, good to look at, but not always the most important. We want the players who are going to help us be successful.”
Woods, 14-times major champion, is on the team as a vice-captain, a role he filled at the 2016 Ryder Cup and 2017 Presidents Cup while he was out with a potentially career-ending back injury.
“He’s priceless. He’s been a really big help to our captains in both ’16 and ’17 from a strategy perspective,” Furyk said.
“It’s been a big boost to having maybe the best player who ever lived following your group and being there for support. He’s a huge value.”
Furyk will name three of his captain’s picks on Sept. 3, and will announce the final selection a week later.
The biennial match against Europe will be played at Le National in Paris from Sept. 28-30.
The U.S. have not won away since 1993.
Furyk sounded excited about the eight who have made a team loaded with talent.
They include the top three in the world rankings — Dustin Johnson, Koepka and Justin Thomas, and all eight are ranked among the world’s leading 20 players.
The events that unfolded in Sunday’s final round at Bellerive augured well for the Americans, not just the form of Woods but the victory of Koepka, who in 14 months has piled up three major titles.
“This guy started out the year injured,” Furyk said, referring to a wrist injury that kept Koepka out of the Masters.
“I know his number one goal this year was to get healthy. Right from the moment he got healthy this year he hit the tour running.
“He loved playing in 2016. He’s tough, fiery, not going to back down.”
(Reporting by Andrew Both, editing by Ed Osmond)