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.
Attention now turns to European captain Thomas Bjorn when he selects all four of his wild cards on Wednesday afternoon.
Experienced campaigners Ian Poulter, Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia and Paul Casey all failed to qualify automatically, as did the likes of Thomas Pieters, Matt Fitzpatrick and Rafa Cabrera Bello, who made their debuts in the defeat at Hazeltine in 2016.
Also in the frame are Scotland’s Russell Knox and the English pair of Matt Wallace and Eddie Pepperell, with Wallace pushing his claims by winning for the third time in 15 starts in front of Bjorn in the Made in Denmark event on Sunday.
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