America’s captain in 2018? Here's why Tiger Woods could be the man

Jim Furyk was still very much in the mix to be a captain’s pick for the upcoming American Ryder Cup when he was asked in late August about his role of vice-captain with said Ryder Cup team.
America’s captain in 2018? Here's why Tiger Woods could be the man

Was he a player or a captain?

Both, of course, and that hits at the curious nature of the current American Ryder Cup landscape, which now features The Ryder Cup Committee, spawned from The Ryder Cup Task Force.

That’s right, folks, what was once a biennial competition of golf teams — genteel golf, for goodness sakes — has on this side of the pond morphed into something that looks like government, what with committees and sub-committees and conference calls and congressional appointments.

Silly is one way to describe it, disjointed is another. But whatever, it’s a new Ryder Cup world and at the urging of lead mutineer Phil Mickelson, the American players now have command of the ship. That they were in position to win a contentious affair at Hazeltine National Golf Club, having command of the singles session and overall score late yesterday afternoon, will be seen as many as vindication for Mickelson & Co. But that is almost what concerns a guy like Furyk.

“If we win, I’m going to be elated,” Furyk said in the days leading up to the 41st Ryder Cup. “But I wouldn’t jump up and down and say we’ve got the magic formula. That’s crazy.”

Instead, Furyk stressed that the whole idea of the players taking ownership of the process was to build a foundation. “We’re going to learn and build,” he said. “We’ve been doing that but I think we can do it better.”

Having played on nine Ryder Cup teams, only two of which won, Furyk has swallowed enough swallowed enough biennial disappointment to be owed a glass of champagne for the win at Hazeltine. It came as he patrolled the golf course in a buggy, one of Davis Love’s five vice-captains.

Amazing in itself, five vice-captains for just 12 players, but when in life you find something worth doing, it’s worth over-doing, and the Ryder Cup has surely turned into a study in excesses.

Furyk (the vice-captain) and Mickelson (the player) weren’t the only members of the Task Force who also represented Team USA at Hazeltine. So, too, did Love (the captain), Tiger Woods (vice-captain), Steve Stricker (vice-captain), Tom Lehman (vice-captain) and Rickie Fowler (player).

Funny stuff, actually, when you stop and consider that players hijacked the team, then pretty much appointed themselves to captaincies or came up with a points system that protected their own self-interests. (It was decided that points would not be rewarded to fall tournaments, which none of the marquee names play in.) Hey, it’s their toy and they’re free to do with it whatever they like. But going forward, some curiosities will arise. Specifically with the captaincy. Task force members have emphasized that they have a plan in place, that it mirrors the Euros’ in that if you’re going to be a captain, you’ve first got to be a vice-captain.

First up, who will be the US captain in 2018? Furyk, 48 then, would seem to be the odds-on favorite, only he has indicated a strong desire to remain a competitive player on Tour and very much candidate for one of the 12 spots. Mickelson, also 48? Forget it. Pencil him in for 2024 when he’ll be 54 and the Ryder Cup will set up its theatre in New York where the left-hander is beloved. Stricker, 51 then, will be Presidents Cup captain in 2017 and it is difficult to imagine him behind back-to-back captain. More likely that Stricker will get the 2020 Ryder Cup job when it stops in Wisconsin, his home state.

Lehman is a vice-captain, but he failed miserably as captain in 2006 and another vice-captain this year is Bubba Watson, though that was totally a last-minute Miss Congeniality reward for being snubbed for the last captain’s pick.

All of which brings us to . . . Woods. That’s right, this generation’s greatest player, a guy who for so many years was accused of not caring for the Ryder Cup, might be in line to lead Team USA into Paris in two years.

Would he want the job? Why not, he appeared to very much like being part of the show this time around (as a player, he was on seven teams and experienced a victory just once) and players universally respect him.

Besides, it’s Paris.

Oh, and one cannot refuse the Task Force’s commands.

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