Woods targets big role in Presidents Cup

The golfer makes it clear that he wants to be a playing captain and help the US extend its domination over the International Team

American golf legend Tiger Woods attributes his amazing comeback from injury this year to the support received from the new generation of stars, even as he prepares for the US’ quest in the 2019 Presidents Cup.

A little more than one year ago, Woods had sat in the media centre at the Presidents Cup in 2017 just outside New York City and told the media in attendance that he was unsure if he would ever play golf at the highest level again.

Fast forward 14 months and Woods has since delivered one of golf’s greatest and most compelling storylines, overcoming a fourth back surgery to claim his 80th PGA (Professional Golfers’ Association) TOUR title in August 2018. He also contended for the prestigious FedExCup title, where he finished second, and also challenged in two of the Majors, before finishing T6 and runner-up at The Open Championship and PGA Championship respectively this year.

The recent winner of the TOUR Championship was on a whirlwind two-day tour of Melbourne, Australia, as the captain for the US Team who will head to The Royal Melbourne Golf Club for the next Presidents Cup from Dec 9-15, 2019.

As he prepared to enjoy a well-earned break after a hectic, but rewarding year, Woods credited the young US team members with playing an important role in his comeback.

“Mentally, it gave me a shot in the arm. The guys really…they really encouraged me to come back and play. The text messages and the calls I got last year through the Presidents Cup were very uplifting,” Woods said during a media conference alongside the Yarra River in downtown Melbourne recently.

He also made it clear that he wants to be a playing captain and help the US extend its domination over the International Team, which will be led by Ernie Els. Of the 12 editions since 1994, the US has won 10 times, lost once at Royal Melbourne in 1998 and tied with the Internationals in South Africa in 2003 where Woods battled Els in a sudden-death playoff in near darkness.

“Hopefully, I can be a part of the automatic eight that automatically qualify. If I don’t happen to be a part of that, then it’s up to me, my vice captains and the rest of the eight guys who automatically qualify; whether who’s going to be a part of the team, who best fits our groupings, our pairings to become part of the team. Hopefully, I’ll be a part of the top eight.

“If not, then we’ve got to work on it,” said Woods, who is currently placed 16th on the team rankings.

Woods’ 26 hours in Melbourne included media activities, sponsor visits and charity fundraising, and began with a photo tour of what he called, “one of the greatest sporting cities in the world”.

His rapid-fire stops included media stunts at the Eureka Tower, where the American superstar was challenged with the most nerve-racking 6ft putt in town — a putt game on the Eureka Tower Skydeck 88 stories above the city. Just as he drew his putter back, the frosted glass turned clear, exposing the cityscape below. Without batting an eye, Woods sunk the putt.

“I’ve jumped out of too many planes for this to bother me,” he calmly stated.

From there, Woods stopped by a nearby graffiti wall, where a street art of both he and International Team Captain Els is displayed in true Melbourne style. His final stop came at the iconic Brighton Beach.

Woods also inspected Royal Melbourne with superintendent Richard Forsyth and shot a series of video and photo opportunities that included trick shots from YouTubers How Ridiculous. He also had a surprise coaching moment with youth members of the Golf Australia MyGolf programme.

Last Wednesday evening, at a charity dinner with Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, the two swapped stories about what makes the golf courses in the Sandbelt region special.

“Well, playing here in the Sandbelt golf courses, it’s just heaven,” Woods told the audience. “We are in probably one of the greatest sporting countries, cities in the world.”

Woods has played in eight Presidents Cups, but believes the next edition will be extra special. “You know, I’ve been a part of the Presidents Cup for 20 years. Now, to have the opportunity to be a captain and to lead my guys into an environment that’s going to be fun, it’s going to be exciting, it’s going to be electric.

“There’s really nothing better than as a player evolving into the role of a captain,” he said.