Tiger Woods of the US is seen during practice in Portrush, Northern Ireland, July 16, 2019. [Photo/Agencies]

Captain says his US team determined not lose its grip on Presidents Cup

United States captain Tiger Woods says the eight players who have qualified for the Presidents Cup to face the International Team at Royal Melbourne Golf Club in December are “fired up” to maintain their stranglehold on the trophy.

With his squad featuring a sprinkling of new stars and established campaigners, Woods, who is captaining the US for the first time, has called on his players to keep their games sharp by competing as much as possible in the opening months of the new PGA Tour season, which teed off last week.

The American legend will name four captain’s picks in early November to complete his 12-man roster to face an Ernie Els-led International Team at Royal Melbourne, which will host the Presidents Cup for a third time from Dec 9-15.

“First, this team is fired up,” declared Woods.

“We have a great mix of younger guys like Xander Schauffele, Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Cantlay and those who have had plenty of Cup experience like Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Matt Kuchar and Webb Simpson.

“As captain, I couldn’t have asked for a more engaged and excited group of guys. December can’t get here soon enough,” Woods said in his latest blog on www.presidentscup.com.

Woods does not want a repeat of 1998 at Royal Melbourne, when the Americans lost their only encounter to the International Team.

Both teams shared the Presidents Cup in 2003, while the US has won on 10 other occasions since the event’s inception in 1994.

“One of my goals is to make sure we learn our lesson from the 1998 Presidents Cup,” said Woods.

“That was my first time playing in a Presidents Cup. With it being our offseason in December, we didn’t arrive quite as sharp as a team and were beaten pretty badly.

“I expect it to be different this time around.

“During our team meeting at Liberty National Golf Club (in Jersey City) in August, I urged my guys to play as much as their schedule allows in the fall in order to arrive in Australia as solid, fresh and sharp as possible.

“The Internationals are going to be tough to beat, especially on their soil, so it’s a challenge we need to be prepared for.”

Woods faces an unenviable task in selecting his four captain’s picks as the likes of Jordan Spieth, Gary Woodland, Tony Finau, Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler failed to qualify among the top eight.

Woods, who won the Masters in April for his 81st PGA Tour title and 15th major, plans to will lean on his captain’s assistants to help him decide on the remaining members.

“While I was disappointed to not earn one of the top eight spots, I’m hopeful to perform well at my next start in Japan (ZoZo Championship),” he said.

“In the meantime, I’m going to rely on playing with some of the guys in Florida to stay sharp. I’ll practice hard, work on my game, and we’ll have some matches. It’s a lot of work, but it’s also always fun,” said Woods, who has played in eight Presidents Cup, including the epic 2003 contest when he dueled with Els in a sudden-death playoff which ended in near-darkness in South Africa.

“My plan is to keep an open line of communication to ensure we find the four guys who best fit this team,” added Woods.

“We will be watching the fall events closely, because there are so many guys who are world-class players who aren’t yet on the team.

“The fall events will also allow me to get extended looks at two young rookies, Matthew Wolff and Colin Morikawa, who both played well after turning pro late in the season.”

The 43-year-old Woods is excited about returning to Royal Melbourne.

“It’s going to be a great experience down at Royal Melbourne. Having played in two Presidents Cups on the Composite Course, I’m looking forward to seeing how the guys attack it.

“When I first played there in’98, I thought it was just an amazing experience to play something that quick, that fast and where you really have to think your way around the course.

“I can’t wait to feel the atmosphere. Melbourne is one of the greatest sporting cities in the world and I know their fans will turn out to watch another great Presidents Cup.”