Hey Tiger Woods, here are the pros and cons of 8 potential Presidents Cup captain’s picks

November 5, 2019
Clockwise, from top right: Jordan Spieth, Tony Finau, Rickie Fowler and Patrick Reed. These four are just a handful of the players who are hoping to get a call from Tiger Woods to join the Presidents Cup team.

Just as every capo needs a consigliere, every U.S. Presidents Cup captain could use the counsel of GOLF.com. That’s our way of saying, “We’re here for you, Tiger,” as you contemplate your captain’s picks for December’s competition at Royal Melbourne. You’ve got until 7 p.m. ET on Thursday to name the final four additions to your 12-man roster (you might get five picks if Brooks Koepka’s knee injury keeps him on the sidelines), which means you’ve still got time to weigh our input. And wouldn’t you know it — we’ve drafted a cheat sheet on the leading candidates, along with a list of their pros and cons. Read up, Tiger. You can’t have a Presidents Cup loss on your resume.

Patrick Reed

Pros: Make America Grate Again! If you really want to rattle your opponents, you could choose no better irritant than Reed, an emotive presence who has backed up his brashness and finger-wagging swagger with the cold-bloodedness of a match-play killer. Forget about his subpar showing at the 2018 Ryder Cup in France. He entered that event in poor form, and the snug, shaggy setup was ill suited to him. Reed’s game today is in much sharper shape, and firm, fast Royal Melbourne is just the place for the clutch shot-making we’ve come to know him for.

Cons: Killing it in match play is all well and good, so long as you don’t also kill team chemistry. That’s the risk with Reed. He rubs both ways.

Gary Woodland

Pros: As if his U.S. Open win weren’t argument enough, the 35-year-old has bolstered his own case with a series of strong recent showings, including a T3 at the CJ Cup in Korea, and a solo fifth-place finish at the Zozo Championship last week in Japan. You remember that, right, Tiger? You played the final 36 holes with him. Maybe you even whispered something to him, because Woodland sounded upbeat when asked about his Presidents Cup prospects. “I feel pretty good about my chances,” he said.

Cons: Veteran that he is, you’d never call Woodland an unknown quantity. But he is untested in this particular format, having never played on a Presidents or Ryder Cup team. Is that a compelling reason not to pick him? We think not.

Tony Finau

Pros: Let’s see: a long hitter who gets along with others and proved that he is comfortable in team competitions by going 2-1-0 as a captain’s pick at the 2018 Ryder Cup, with one of those wins being a 6-and-4 stomping of Tommy Fleetwood in singles. Really, what’s not to like?

Cons: We can’t guarantee that he won’t make an ace during a practice round and wreck his ankle in celebration. Also, his previous two starts have not been great.

Rickie Fowler

Pros: Where Patrick Reed is also known as “Table for One,” Rickie is the guy everybody wants to sit with. Popular with fans and fellow players alike, he’s also seasoned in these team competitions. Oh, and did we mention: dude can really putt.

Cons: With his recent beach wedding to Allison Stokke, Fowler should be tanned, ready and rested. But since he also hasn’t gotten in a lot of reps of late, you’ve got to wonder: has that rest given way to rust?

Kevin Na

Pros: Given all that he’s overcome (driver yips; the bad juju of a broken engagement), there may not be a guttier guy than Na. And given that he’s got three wins in his last 30 starts, there also might not be a golfer in better form. Lastly, as evidenced by this goofy moment at the Players Championship, Na and Tiger have a nice, playful rapport.

Cons: The full-swing yips are gone, but Na remains a grinder with his share of idiosyncrasies, which might make it hard to sync with him in partner golf.

Phil Mickelson

Pros: A respected elder statesmen, Mickelson, 49, could be a steadying clubhouse presence and a calming sidekick for a rookie partner, so he’s got that going for him. Having played in 24 consecutive U.S. team competitions, starting with the 1994 Presidents Cup, he also has sentiment on his side.

Cons: If this were a sentimental choice — or a sexy calf competition — Mickelson would be a shoo-in. But what stands out instead is a stretch of sloppy play that began early last season and has shown no sign of letup. Don’t take our word for it. So badly has he struggled that Mickelson himself has said he does not “deserve or warrant” a captain’s pick.

Jordan Spieth

Pros: Sometimes you’ve got to look beyond the stats and lean instead on stuff that doesn’t show up on the scorecard. What that stuff reveals is a guy with boundless heart, a grinder for all seasons without an ounce of letup who plays with searing focus even when he’s searching for his swing. A solid teammate and a proven clutch performer, Spieth has, in recent months, also gotten back to flashing magic with his putter, and we all know how crucial that can be in match play.

Cons: Then again, there are the stats. And among the things they point to is wildness off the tee (Spieth is T229 on Tour in driving accuracy), a key contributor to a frustrating stretch that has kept him winless for two-plus years.

Tiger Woods

Pros: Just as no one goes to a Springsteen concert to watch Bruce work the soundboard, no one turns up at a golf tournament to watch you, Tiger, ride shotgun in a cart. The greatest player of all time, fresh off a win, showcasing your talents in an global exhibition: that’s what the golf world wants to see.

Cons: Aside from the distant possibility that forcing yourself to assume the role of player and captain simultaneously will send you into a state of Sybil-like psychosis, we can’t think of one.