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
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 (update: Hero Challenge pairing strengthens suspicion they'll play together), 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.
While all the talk when it comes to injury concerns surrounded the now absent Brooks 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 last week's Hero Challenge. 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, where he's unbeaten in six foursomes matches. Question marks over form and fitness, but at his best he'd be the biggest problem for the Internationals.
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 year 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. Especially if Reed pops a tee peg under the ball before each of his partner's shots.
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 (paired with Gary Woodland in Albany last week) but this brilliant ball-striker works well with anyone.
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 contribution here. Seventh in Vegas before a decent week in the Hero and has been inside the top 30 on every single start since The Masters.
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 (despite not doing so in 2011). 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 Woodland.
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 whereas he's been a little in and out lately, finishing down the field last week having previously gone well in Vegas. 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. Played with Simpson in the Hero and that's a concern which would put me off backing the latter.
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 victory 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. Played much better over the final three rounds last week, where paired with Rickie Fowler, and should justify his inclusion.
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 along with Schauffele. 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 despite blowing his chance to win last week.
The one profile which needed a rewrite following events at the Hero Challenge. There, Reed cheated in the third round, digging out the sand behind his ball in a so-called waste area, for which he was given a post-round, two-shot penalty - nowhere near sufficient. Reed accepted his punishment without really owning it, instead claiming that the sole camera angle did not paint a full picture. Excuses are wearing thin, and it's a great shame that the PGA Tour didn't take more decisive action. Word is that there's been no real mention of the incident since the US team flew to Australia, whereas there's been outrage in the wider golfing community - Cameron Smith, a member of the opposition side, as good as called him a cheater. What does Woods do? Does he send Reed out in the opening match and ask him to embrace the role of villain, something he's done before; or does he bury Reed, effectively punishing him not only for last week, but for his behaviour at the Ryder Cup last year? We'll find out later this week. For all that he's the story, I wouldn't be concerned as to how Reed will perform under the spotlight. He was brilliant on Saturday at the Hero World Challenge, a day after the incident, and if anything could be more dangerous now. Likely to play alongside Cantlay after they played together in the Zurich Classic and again in round one last week.
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 in little more than a year, he's played some poor golf in bursts and was downright awful at the Ryder Cup, 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 and has to recover from a long flight, 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.
Classic Rickie: didn't win the real quiz, but in as 13th man following Koepka's withdrawal. I wrote somewhere else (maybe above, I forget) that his absence wouldn't be felt given a modest record in match play and the quality among the team, but that shouldn't change the fact that Fowler was the right reserve. No, Tiger was not wrong to overlook Brendon Todd, don't be so bloody ridiculous. Fowler is better at golf than Todd and so what if he's put getting married ahead of underlining that point of late? He's the butt of jokes, such as my opener here, but is ranked 22nd in the world and has the shot-making game which is required at Royal Melbourne. However he plays - and, as the last man in, he's no certainty to feature regularly - Fowler was by some distance the standout candidate, with Kevin Kisner, Billy Horschel, Collin Morikawa and quite a few others above Todd in the pecking order. I mean, seriously - stop being ridiculous. When Kristoffer Broberg won three Challenge Tour events in four weeks at the start of the decade, it didn't make him the best golfer in the world. Todd, who beat Harry Higgs in Bermuda and Vaughn Taylor in Mexico, is not one of the 13 best golfers in America right now, and he won't be in mid-December. Stop. Being. Ridiculous. I mean it now.