AKRON, Ohio (CNN) – He’ll be in Paris anyway as an assistant captain, but Tiger Woods is determined to make the U.S. Ryder Cup team as a player in September. And the prospect of two rounds a day for the first two days of the competition doesn’t faze the 42-year-old star, who has endured four back operations in recent years.
The former world No. 1 is already set to act as deputy for U.S. captain Jim Furyk in the biennial matchplay event against a European team, but his performances this season on his return from spine fusion surgery have pushed him into contention for a playing berth.
Woods led last month’s British Open at Carnoustie with eight holes to play before finishing in a tie for sixth, lifting him to 20th in the Ryder Cup rankings, with the top eight players qualifying automatically. He may have too much left to do to guarantee a slot, but he will be a strong contender for one of Furyk’s four wildcard picks.
Asked about his chances of making the side, Woods said, “What would be the word — trending?”
Woods has not played in a Ryder Cup for six years, and is relishing the prospect of returning to the competition as a player, despite the physical toll. “Play two matches in a day? Yeah, I have no problem with that,” Woods told reporters at Firestone Country Club ahead of this week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, the last event that he won on the PGA Tour in 2013.
“I play 36 holes all the time at home. Granted, we are in a cart and zip around there in two-hour rounds. It will certainly be different, but my job is to still get on the team. I’m outside the top eight and I’m going to be there in either case, but I would like to be there as a player as well,” Woods said.
Woods was also an assistant captain under Davis Love at Hazeltine in 2016. He has played on seven U.S. Ryder Cup teams, but only tasted victory once in 1999. His individual record is mediocre, with 13 wins from his 33 matches with three halves, but the experience he will bring could be invaluable to Furyk.
“I’m going to handle him the way I do everyone else,” Furyk said. “I’ll ask my top eight guys. The way he’s playing, he might be one of them. I’ll ask the vice captains, collectively, and I think we’ll do the best we can to round out the team. We want the guys playing the best.”
Woods, who has won a record eight times at Firestone, admitted that his British Open stumble “stung for a while.” But he offset the memory with a holiday in Switzerland with children Sam and Charlie, and girlfriend Erica Herman.
The U.S. Ryder Cup automatic qualification process ends on August 12 after the year’s final major, the U.S. PGA. Furyk will add three captain’s picks on September 3 and a fourth after the BMW Championship on September 9.
The U.S. is the defending champion, but has not won on European soil since Tom Watson’s team prevailed at The Belfry in England in 1993. Europe has won six of the last eight matches.
The Ryder Cup takes place at Le Golf National outside of Paris from September 28-30.
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