Furyk gets core of Ryder Cup team, and obvious pick in Woods

Tiger Woods celebrates after sinking his birdie putt on the ninth green during the final round of the PGA Championship golf tournament at Bellerive Country Club, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2018, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
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AP Golf Writer

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The upside to Jim Furyk finishing so early at the PGA Championship was being able to watch the final round on television, partly as a player but mostly as the Ryder Cup captain. And that meant seeing plenty of Tiger Woods. “I really wanted to see kind of how Tiger was playing, and I only got to see … I don’t know, like every shot he hit for the rest of the day,” Furyk said Monday with a laugh. “It was great theater, really.” Ultimately, nothing really changed.

Woods was as dynamic as he has been all year, shot 6-under 64 for the lowest final round of his career in the majors, had his lowest 72-hole score in the majors, captivated one of the largest and loudest galleries in golf and was runner-up to Brooks Koepka by two shots. He’s a threat at majors or anywhere else. He gets attention inside and outside the ropes. As for the Ryder Cup, Furyk ended up with the same eight players who started the week atop the U.S. standings. The PGA Championship was the final event for eight players to earn automatic spots.

Furyk will choose three captain’s picks next month after the second FedEx Cup playoff event, with the last pick Sept. 10 after the third playoff. Koepka, who won three of the eight majors during the qualifying period, overtook Dustin Johnson to lead the points list, and the next six players stayed the same — Justin Thomas, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Webb Simpson. Woods, who started the year with zero points, moved from No. 20 to No. 11 on the strength of his tie for sixth at the British Open, where he briefly led during the final round, and his runner-up at Bellerive.

Furyk was not willing to say what appears certain for everyone else: Woods will be in France with golf clubs for the Sept. 28-30 matches. “We want the players who are going to help us be successful,” Furyk said. “He’s playing very well. I think there’s a lot of folks out there who probably think he can help us. Really, what we wanted to talk about today was the top eight players. I realize Tiger is a story. I realize he’s playing very well, and I’m excited to see that.”
Woods was appointed a vice captain in late February, and he has said he would like to serve two roles.

He also said that when he was appointed a vice captain for the Presidents Cup for the 2017 matches, and no one took him all that seriously. They do now, and Woods made it clear he wants to compete in his first Ryder Cup since 2012. “I do want to be there as a player,” he said Sunday. “Our captain has some decisions to make. We’ll all sit down and give him our input, who can contribute. Hopefully, my name will be part of that process.” Woods doesn’t need numbers to state his case. He’s Tiger Woods, and that carries a lot of weight.

Along with moving to No. 11 in the Ryder Cup standings, Woods now is at No. 20 in the FedEx Cup. With one decent week in the playoffs, he most likely would be assured of being in all four of the events, ending with the Tour Championship the week before boarding a plane to Paris. It would be the second time he plays the Ryder Cup as a captain’s pick. The other was in 2010, when he was coming off the scandal in his personal life that kept him out of golf until the 2010 Masters, and he finished the qualifying period at No. 12. Furyk has other decisions to make.

Phil Mickelson failed to qualify for the Ryder Cup for the first time since 1993, his first full season on the PGA Tour. He was 10th in the standings and missed the cut at a PGA Championship that was ripe for scoring. Mickelson has one victory over the last five years, a playoff win over Thomas in the Mexico Championship. He was not a factor in any of the majors, though he was regarded as a central figure in the team room and helped reshaped the U.S. model for the Ryder Cup.

Bryson DeChambeau was at No. 9 and missed the cut. Xander Schauffele is at No. 12. Right behind him is Matt Kuchar, who has played in every Ryder Cup since 2010 but who has only four top 10s this year and missed the cut in two majors. Furyk said he would be meeting with his vice captains frequently over the next few weeks, and planned to attend two of the FedEx Cup playoff events for meetings and dinners with players already on the team, who also will have some input. That includes Woods, a vice captain and sure-fire pick.

“I think the word he used is ‘trending.’ His game is trending,” Furyk said with a smile. “So it’s great to see him playing well.” Furyk said he would consider a player who gets hot, along with those whose games fit Le Golf Nacional — he considers it a second-shot course — and who meshes with other players for pairings. The eight who made the team already make natural partnerships. Koepka and Johnson, and Thomas and Fowler played together in the Presidents Cup last year. Spieth and Reed have been dynamic in the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup. Watson and Simpson have been partners in both cups. “I’d say the door’s open in a lot of respects,” Furyk said.