Tiger Woods says it is “beyond special” to be returning to a playing role in the Ryder Cup after receiving a wildcard pick from US captain Jim Furyk Tuesday.
The former world No. 1 was already set to be at the event near Paris as an assistant captain, but the quality of his play this season after returning from back fusion surgery suggests the 14-time major champion can be a key factor in the US successfully defending the Cup.
Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau were also selected by Furyk, who will confirm the final member of his 12-man team for the match against Europe Monday after the BMW Championship.
“I served as vice-captain a couple of years ago and that was absolutely incredible to be part of the team, to try to help these young guys in any way I could,” Woods told reporters.
“This year, to be able to play again is beyond special.
“To have an opportunity to go to Europe and to have an opportunity to win a Ryder Cup and to be part of this group of guys to have that opportunity to go there, it’s exciting, it really is.”
‘Feather in our cap’
Woods, who was vice-captain when USA defeated Europe 17-11 on home soil in 2016, last appeared as a player in 2012. Although he’s played in seven Ryder Cups, has only been on the winning side once, at Brookline in 1999.
In all he has played 33 Ryder Cup matches, with 13 wins, 17 defeats and three halves.
The 42-year-old has been plagued by back injuries in recent years but his resurgence this season has been the talk of the golf world.
He briefly led July’s British Open before finishing tied sixth and was runner-up behind Brooks Koepka at August’s US PGA Championship.
“Tiger and I spent time as partners, we’ve spent a lot of time as vice-captains talking strategy, talking pairings,” Furyk said.
“It’s been great to have his help and get a little feel of one of the best minds in the history of the game on your side, helping you out.
“We’re all excited to see him healthy again. It’s a feather in our cap to have him playing on our side.”
Mickelson, 48, will be appearing in a record 12th straight Ryder Cup after making his debut in 1995. The mercurial left-hander won a World Golf Championship event in Mexico earlier this year to record his first win since 2013.
Mickelson surpasses the record of England’s Nick Faldo, who played in 11 straight Ryder Cups from 1977.
DeChambeau is the hottest property on tour after winning the first two FedEx Cup playoff events to seal his spot after finishing one place outside of automatic qualification.
The 24-year-old, known as golf’s “mad scientist,” has a unique style and uses irons that are all the same length.
His quirky theories have marked him out as different, but DeChambeau has proved there is method to the madness with four wins in his last 31 events. He will be making his Ryder Cup playing debut after attending the Hazeltine event as a fan.
Furyk said of the trio: “We were looking for players that have a body of work, players that are in good form and we’re heading to Europe, playing on foreign soil, so wanted players that would handle that situation and thrive on it.”
Already qualified for the US team are Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed, Webb Simpson, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Bubba Watson.
A number of players, including Tony Finau, Kevin Kisner and Xander Schauffele, are in the running for the final wildcard spot.
Bolstering his vice-captains, Furyk added David Duval, Matt Kuchar and Zach Johnson to his roster alongside Steve Stricker and Davis Love.
Europe captain Thomas Bjorn of Denmark will name all four of his wildcard picks Wednesday.
The European side’s automatic qualifiers are Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Rory McIlroy, Francesco Molinari, Alex Noren, Thorbjorn Olesen, Jon Rahm and Justin Rose.
The US has not won a Ryder Cup on European soil since Tom Watson’s team triumphed at The Belfry in England in 1993. Europe has won six of the last eight Ryder Cups.
The Ryder Cup is set to begin at Le Golf National in France on September 28.