Presidents Cup: Player-by-player guide to Tiger Woods' United States side

Ben Coley profiles Tiger Woods' US side
Ben Coley profiles Tiger Woods' US side

Ben Coley profiles Tiger Woods' United States side ahead of the Presidents Cup, one which includes the great man himself.

Records below refer to Presidents Cup only

Brooks Koepka

  • Overall record: 2-2-0
  • Fourballs: 2-0-0
  • Foursomes: 0-1-0
  • Singles: 0-1-0
  • Notable partners: Johnson (2-0-0)

The current world number one who is sidelined at present and remains something of a doubt at this stage. Koepka underwent stem-cell treatment on his left knee during the days-long off-season and, having returned to action at the CJ Cup, he then withdrew having slipped on wet concrete. That means his form figures should he tee off in Australia will include both MC and WD, hardly ideal regardless of his status in the game, and if he does play there has to be some doubt as to how often he'll want to be involved. So far in the Presidents Cup he's won both fourball games having made his debut in 2017. They came alongside Dustin Johnson, the pair then reunited at the Ryder Cup following rumours of a fallout. They lost that foursomes game but it was close and it's possible the so-called Bash Brothers (awful, awful name) pair up once more. - perhaps as the Crocked Compadres. If you point out that Koepka has never played in Australia expect him to reply 'I travel boy' and remind you that the Turkish Airlines Open did not come to him down the motorway. Something like that, anyway.

Justin Thomas

  • Overall record: 3-1-1
  • Fourballs: 2-0-0
  • Foursomes: 1-0-1
  • Singles: 0-1-0
  • Notable partners: None

Made his US team debut (ignoring the Walker Cup) in this two years ago, pairing up with Rickie Fowler to go unbeaten before losing his singles match to Hideki Matsuyama. Since then, he's top-scored for his side in a Ryder Cup, taking down Rory McIlroy in Sunday singles, and once more he should be considered a lynchpin even within this undeniably strong side. It'll be interesting to see whether Thomas gets his chance to pair with Woods, having followed him around in practice for some time now, and these Florida neighbours would make a fearsome team - particularly with their approach work. Truth be told Thomas has no weakness, and with wins in South Korea and Malaysia, plus that effort in Paris, it's hard to argue that a trip Down Under is likely to catch him out. Like many in the US side, he will have to show a little versatility - Royal Melbourne is very different to Liberty National and Le Golf National - but he has a magnificent attitude and all the tools to overcome that challenge.

Dustin Johnson

  • Overall record: 8-4-2
  • Fourballs: 2-3-0
  • Foursomes: 5-0-1
  • Singles: 1-1-1
  • Notable partners: Koepka (2-0-0), Kuchar (2-0-1), Woods (1-2-0)

While all the talk when it comes to injury concerns surrounds Koepka, his predecessor at the top of the world rankings hasn't been seen since the TOUR Championship and has also undergone surgery. Perhaps that explains why DJ produced some of his worst golf in years towards the end of the 2019 season and he's returned from other absences fit and firing in the past, but it has to be somewhat troubling that he skipped the WGC-HSBC Champions - an event he'd won before and where the no-cut format would've surely been ideal to shake off the rust. Anyway, that's the unknown at present but what we know is that he's been an excellent team golfer throughout the past decade and particularly in this. Unbeaten in six foursomes matches and boasting winning partnerships with Kuchar and Koepka, should Woods go for the Azinger 'pod' system then expect DJ to be in with those two and his captain. Question marks over form and fitness, but at his best he'd be the biggest problem for the Internationals.

Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson at Hazeltine
Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson at Hazeltine

Patrick Cantlay

  • Debut

One of the world's most complete golfers, who makes his overdue debut for the United States as a professional, eight years on from a narrow Walker Cup defeat in Scotland. Cantlay excelled throughout the 2019 season, his final-round 64 in the Memorial one of the most impressive victory laps of the season and one which answered a few questions as to his resolve. Sure, he stalled when hitting the front during that madcap hour at Augusta, but that was his first taste of contending in a major and he will have learned plenty. If there's a concern around his suitability to this event specifically, it might be the fact he's slow - although there's been definite improvement of late, and it's not like he's alone. Hopefully we're not faced with the prospect of him teeing it up with Bryson DeChambeau, with Patrick Reed a more likely partner. The pair have played the Zurich Classic together and the combination of Cantlay's relentless quality and Reed's red, white and blue fireworks could be deadly.

Xander Schauffele

  • Debut

Very similar to Cantlay in that he makes his debut for the US as a professional having been the sort of player who would've greatly aided their cause in Paris last year. Schauffele is also Californian, young, low-key in his manner but explosive in his golf, so comparisons with Cantlay are very strong indeed and they're the sort of additions which Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker needs. First, they get their chance to learn something here and Schauffele has shown a liking for expected conditions with an excellent performance in The Open at Carnoustie last year. A winner in China and with a handful of European Tour appearances to go with that, he's well-travelled and well capable of starring on debut. Having gone without silverware since the first week of 2019, he'll also be especially motivated to end a campaign of near-misses on a high. Unclear who he could play with but this brilliant ball-striker works well with anyone.

Webb Simpson

  • Overall record: 5-3-2
  • Fourballs: 2-1-1
  • Foursomes: 3-1-0
  • Singles: 0-1-1
  • Notable partners: None

One of two demonstrably short hitters in the side - which may be no bad thing at a course which requires a little more thought than many previous venues. Indeed I thought Simpson might prove invaluable at Le Golf National for similar reasons and he was misused by Jim Furyk, who left him out of fourballs altogether in a display of short-sightedness. Simpson beat Rose in the singles to underline how dangerous he can be on the right track and this one qualifies, after he scored three points from five in 2011, suffering two defeats only by narrow margins. The 2012 US Open winner has since elevated his status in the game and while there are 10 players in this side who are obviously more explosive, Woods would be wrong to underestimate his potential value here. Seventh in Vegas when last seen and inside the top 30 on every single start since The Masters, he's a player we all should be looking to side with somehow.

Matt Kuchar

  • Overall record: 6-8-2
  • Fourballs: 3-1-0
  • Foursomes: 3-3-2
  • Singles: 0-4-0
  • Notable partners: Johnson (2-0-1), Woods (3-1-0)

It's quite something to be an American with a losing Presidents Cup return, but despite always being on the winning side that's exactly what Kuchar has managed to create. Though he remains well-liked in the team room and hard to beat on the ping-pong table, Generous George's contribution on the course has been limited - though he is unbeaten alongside DJ and struck up an excellent and equally nauseating (see below) partnership with Woods six years ago. Clearly, Kuchar has enjoyed another good year by any measure except popularity and there's a solid argument that, like Simpson, he'll thrive at this course. However, a look at that record tells you that he just hasn't managed to crack team golf. He's won one and lost seven of his eight singles matches across this and the Ryder Cup, his sole victim over the course of a decade an ageing Thomas Bjorn. Oppose him on Sunday, then, and look for a way to do so before that, too. Partnership possibilities include the above two, DJ and Woods, but also note he once won the World Cup alongside Gary Woodland.

Bryson DeChambeau

  • Debut

If he deigns to leave the gym in time to make his flight, DeChambeau will make his Presidents Cup debut. He will hope, no doubt, that it goes a damn sight better than his Ryder Cup debut, in which he was paired with Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods and lost both matches without seeing the 15th tee box, and then suffered a sucker-punch on the final green in the final match, which he also lost. At the time, DeChambeau was the form player on the US team and he's edging back to that level at the moment, starting the season MC-13-4 to climb back inside the world's top 10. It'll be interesting to see who he's paired with - DeChambeau wouldn't be the most popular member of the team, nor the easiest to bounce off - and there's a chance Woods uses him sparingly despite a world-class game when everything fires.

Tony Finau

  • Debut

One of the few Americans to have emerged from last year's Ryder Cup with any credit, it was that performance (2-1-0) which perhaps tipped the scales in Finau's favour over players like Kevin Na who have been better at winning. Finau, famously, remains stuck on one low-key win in Puerto Rico, but by every other measure he's an elite, consistent golfer and he's also extremely popular; easy to get along with and therefore easy to pair. In Paris, he was thrown in alongside Koepka and they went well enough, winning one and losing one, before Finau then took down the flying Tommy Fleetwood in singles. Versatile, as demonstrated by his record in the majors, it's easy to see why he was such a compelling wildcard option despite a disappointing couple of weeks leading up to his selection.

Gary Woodland

  • Debut

Having become US Open champion this summer, showing exceptional poise and a short-game which finally worked under the gun, Woodland is probably a decent blueprint for Finau to attempt to follow. Both are popular, hugely athletic and ideal team-mates to have, especially as for all their power they're comfortable clubbing down when the need arises. Woodland's place on the team wasn't quite sealed with what he did at Pebble Beach, but as soon as he flew home for third in the CJ Cup it seemed clear he'd be on the plane for an overdue debut for the United States. He has, of course, represented them in the World Cup, winning it alongside Kuchar, and perhaps that's an option for Woods. Regardless, big-hitting Woodland - a former finalist in the WGC-Match Play - won't give many holes away for free and is expected to play well when called upon.

Gary Woodland celebrates winning the US Open at Pebble Beach
Gary Woodland celebrates winning the US Open at Pebble Beach

Patrick Reed

  • Overall record: 4-3-2
  • Fourballs: 2-0-1
  • Foursomes: 2-2-0
  • Singles: 0-1-1
  • Notable partners: Kuchar (0-1-0)

It would be interesting to know just how close Reed came to losing his place on the United States team, one he's had since making an excellent, crowd-shushing Ryder Cup debut in 2014. Why? Because he lost a few friends and made some new enemies at last year's Ryder Cup, where he was vocal about losing Spieth as his partner and also let slip that playing with Woods had been hard because Woods had been terrible to the point of offering an apology. In fairness, there appeared no bad blood when Reed slipped a Green Jacket around Tiger's shoulders in the spring, and it's no surprise the American found the reserves to win a FedEx Cup Playoff event to make leaving him out a difficult thing to do. So far he's not quite been as effective in the Presidents Cup - maybe he doesn't quite get the same buzz - but Reed is unbeaten in fourballs, and unlike many of his team-mates he's going to arrive in Australia tuned-up and in-form. Will he get another chance alongside Woods? Perhaps not, with Cantlay looking a far more natural fit, one with considerably less risk.

Tiger Woods

  • Overall record: 24-15-1
  • Fourballs: 7-9-0
  • Foursomes: 11-4-1
  • Singles: 6-2-0
  • Notable partners: Johnson (1-2-0), Kuchar (3-1-0)

What is there to say? Tiger Woods has understandably selected Tiger Woods as one of four wildcards, a decision which would've been easy to justify even before he romped to victory in the ZOZO Championship. That took his tally to 82 PGA Tour wins but the significant point in terms of the here and now is that three have come in his last 14 starts - he is, once again, prolific. Woods' Presidents Cup record is excellent, as you'd expect, with 24.5 points from a possible 40 courtesy of 24 wins and just the one halved game. While no surprise he's been most effective when playing on his own, it's interesting that in this event he's proven a better foursomes scorer than fourballs and I can't to be honest work out why that might be. There are also mixed messages when it comes to his capabilities here, as while he has won three titles he's played some poor golf in bursts and was downright awful at the Ryder Cup last year, albeit he was exhausted on arrival. Perhaps the warmth of Australia will suit more than those cool Paris mornings but his record here is another small worry: only twice has he returned a losing individual record in a Presidents Cup, and both came at Royal Melbourne. Given that he'll take captaincy seriously, perhaps we'll only see Woods two or three times and the evidence of this extraordinary career is that he should be considered a singles banker, but vulnerable before that.

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