Tiger Woods admitted it was “beyond special” to be set for an eighth Ryder Cup appearance after being named as a wild card by US captain Jim Furyk.
Furyk sprung no surprises as he named Bryson DeChambeau, Phil Mickelson and Woods as his first three wild cards, the trio having finished ninth, 10th and 11th in qualifying respectively.
But playing well enough to fully justify his place in the side is still a remarkable achievement by Woods, who underwent spinal fusion surgery in April last year and was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence the following month when he was found asleep at the wheel of his car.
The 42-year-old, who had five prescription drugs in his system, later pleaded guilty to reckless driving and will spend a year on probation and undergo a diversion programme.
Woods only returned to competitive golf in November but has been impressive ever since, recording five top-10 finishes and missing just two halfway cuts, with sixth place in the Open at Carnoustie and second in the US PGA removing any lingering doubts about his place on team.
Since making his debut in 1997, Woods has compiled a poor record in the event with 13 wins, 17 defeats and three halved matches, while he was a vice-captain to Davis Love III during the 2016 victory at Hazeltine.
“I made my first team at Valderrama and it was a great learning experience to see the passion that one of our late, great team leaders in Payne Stewart showed for the event,” Woods said.
“He made me understand how important the Ryder Cup is and from that moment on I always wanted to be part of each and every team.
“I haven’t been part of the team playing-wise for six years. 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. This year, to be able to play again is beyond special.”
Woods had been scheduled to be a vice-captain at Le Golf National in Paris and Furyk announced he had therefore added David Duval, Zach Johnson and Matt Kuchar to his backroom staff, joining Love and Steve Stricker.
“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 had to rely on a wild card for the first time in his career and has won 18, lost 20 and halved seven of his 45 matches. Only Furyk himself has lost as many in the competition.
DeChambeau will make his debut in Paris but is in brilliant form after back-to-back wins in the first two FedEx Cup play-off events. Tony Finau is favourite to get the final wild card on September 10 after finishing 15th in qualifying and second and fourth behind DeChambeau.
Tiger Woods was named to the United States’ Ryder Cup team on Tuesday as captain Jim Furyk also added veteran Phil Mickelson and in-form Bryson DeChambeau to his line-up.
Former world number one Woods had already been assured of a trip to Paris for the September 28-30 showdown with Europe after being named as one of Furyk’s non-playing vice-captains.
However Woods’ form since his return to golf this year prompted Furyk to award him one of the four captain’s picks set aside for players who did not qualify automatically for the team.
Mickelson and DeChambeau filled the other two captain’s picks announced by Furyk on Tuesday.
The US captain will announce his final place on the defending champions’ team next week, with Tony Finau regarded as the front-runner for the position.
There had been little suspense surrounding Furyk’s announcement on Tuesday.
Woods, 42, will be playing in his eighth Ryder Cup and makes his first appearance since the 2012 event.
The 14-time major champion signalled his return to form last month with an electrifying second-place finish at the PGA Championship.
Mickelson meanwhile was regarded as a likely pick for what will be his 12th Ryder Cup appearance.
The 48-year-old reminded Furyk of his quality with a dazzling eight-under-par 63 in the final round of the Dell Technologies Championship on Monday.
DeChambeau, 24, had virtually guaranteed himself one of the captain’s picks after storming to victory in the opening two legs of the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup playoff series, winning the Northern Trust and Dell Technologies Championship.
The United States will be chasing their first Ryder Cup victory on European soil in 25 years when they face Europe at Le Golf National in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines outside Paris.
With Thorbjorn Olesen securing the final automatic qualifying place in Europe’s Ryder Cup team and Matt Wallace winning his third tournament of the year, European captain Thomas Bjorn had quite a difficult decision for his four wildcard picks over the next two days.
Here, we take a look at the main contenders for the four spots.
He knows how to perform under pressure and has enjoyed a sparkling season, with a win at the Houston Open and top six finishes at the Dubai Desert Classic and WGC Match Play.
The Hertfordshire native has already summoned that Ryder Cup spirit, with recent solid displays at the Canadian Open (T12) and WGC Bridgestone Invitational (T10).
With a 12-4-2 record from five Ryder Cup appearances, it is likely that Bjorn will call on the five-time winner to inspire his side to success against a dominant American team.
Beat Jordan Spieth in the final day singles at Hazeltine having lost three of his previous four matches.
Solid throughout 2018, the Swede has recorded two top-5s and four top-10s, including a T5 finish at the Masters and T6 at the US Open.
His experience and leadership will be crucial to the team, and his accuracy off the tee – ranked number one in 3-wood accuracy on PGA Tour stats – gives Bjorn plenty of options.
Imagine the prospect of Stenson and Alex Noren or Justin Rose lining up on the first at Le Golf National together?
The Englishman struggled with a back injury earlier this year but will be one of the hopefuls to secure a wildcard berth.
At 40, his last appearance in the Ryder Cup was 10 years ago in 2008 but he is a known inspirational presence on the course.
Although he failed to win a match in Valhalla all those years ago, his form over the last six months should be enough to seal a place, with a win at the Valspar Championship, T2 at the Travelers Championship and top-15 finishes at the US Open and Masters among his notable results.
Could get selected ahead of Garcia – who has missed seven cuts this year.
The Belgian was in sensational form on his Ryder Cup debut in 2016, scoring four points and forging a formidable partnership with Rory McIlroy.
However, he has failed to build on that sparkling form and has struggled for large spells of this year, with only one top-5 and three top-10s in 20 starts.
But, the 26-year-old may have done enough for selection, based on his T6 finish at the PGA Championship in August.
Whatever the case it’s Pieters, along with Garcia, who will give Bjorn the biggest selection headache.
If the wildcards are selected on form, then Garcia should in no way be in the conversation for one of Bjorn’s picks.
But, his experience of playing in eight editions of the biennial event could perhaps see him be picked ahead of other in-form players.
The Spaniard has collected 22.5 Ryder Cup points and boasts a 19-11-17 record since making his debut back in 1999.
After missing seven cuts this season, including all four at the majors and failing to qualify for the FedEX Cup playoffs, could the 38-year-old turnaround his form just in time on golf’s biggest stage?
The Spaniard was the only undefeated European at Hazeltine back in 2016.
In the World Points list this year, he finished behind Poulter and ahead of Casey, Stenson, Garcia and Pieters.
He also made the cut in all four majors, including a stunning final round 64 to finish in a tie for tenth at the PGA Championship.
At the Wydnham Championship, the 31-year-old finished with rounds of 65 and 64 to secure a T11 finish.
A solid season so far for the Dubai resident.
There is no better way to boost your chances for selection then by winning the final Ryder Cup qualifying event in Denmark.
The London native birdied five of the last six holes at Silkeborg, then both in the play-off, to secure his third victory of 2018 on Sunday.
He may not be a household name like Stenson, Poulter or Garcia, but his ruthless streak of four wins over the past 16 months is not something to overlook.
The 28-year-old has certainly put himself in the selection conversations based on his scintillating form this year, but with five rookies already in his side, it is unlikely Bjorn will want any more.
There is no doubt Wallace will play Ryder Cup golf in the future, but this edition of the competition may prove too soon for the World No76.