MELBOURNE, Australia — Tiger Woods the golfer second-guessed Tiger Woods the captain. Ultimately, it was Tiger Woods the captain that made the decision to leave Tiger Woods the golfer on the bench for both Saturday sessions of the 13th Presidents Cup.
In a head-scratching move, Woods wasn’t among the four pairings he sent out for the afternoon Foursomes on Saturday at Royal Melbourne Golf Club, even though the Americans faced a significant 9-5 deficit.
“You have to do what’s best for the team,” Woods said. “I’m getting ready for the singles (Saturday).”
It was a surprise move considering the dire circumstances the United States faced and how well Woods played in his first two matches. Teamed with Justin Thomas, Woods was 2-0 winning his Four-Ball match on Thursday against Marc Leishman and Joaquin Niemann, 4&3; and a Foursomes match, 1-up against Byeong Hun An and Hideki Matsuyama on Friday.
Few eyebrows were raised when Woods pulled himself from Saturday mornings Four-Ball matches. But with the Internationals winning the session 2-1-1 to take a 9 to 5, it was expected Woods would play in the afternoon.
Instead he elected to send out Dustin Johnson and Gary Woodland against Louis Oosthuizen and Adam Scott; Thomas and Rickie Fowler against Leishman and Abraham Ancer; Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay against Cameron Smith and Sungjae Im; and Matt Kuchar and Tony Finau against Byeong Hun An and Niemann.
Woods was asked if his vice captains tried to talk him out of not playing in the afternoon.
“I tried to talk myself out of it too,” Woods said. “But you know it is what it is and we’re going to go out there and try to get some points.”
Why Woods not playing is “best for the team” doesn’t sound logical if the 43-year-old isn’t physically impacted. He played better than most members of this team. Johnson, Woodland, Kuchar and Finau had yet to win a match, combing for just 1.5 points between the four of them.
Woods made the right decision to bench Patrick Reed and Webb Simpson, who lost all three matches together. Bryson DeChambeau hasn’t played since the opening Four-Ball session on Thursday.
Woods hinted in an interview with Golf Channel that weather may have been a factor in sitting all of Saturday since it was cloudy and cold for most of the day.
“Weather is always a factor,” he said. “That’s just the way it is with old age and injuries. I trust my teammates. I’ll be ready to go (Saturday).”
Ernie Els, captain of the International team, admitted he was surprised Woods didn’t play in the afternoon. “Yes, especially the way he’s been playing with J.T.,” Els said.