Ryder Cup 2018: Tiger Woods stakes claim at PGA Championship – ‘to be part of the conversation, it’s pretty cool’
The 14-time major champion is all but guaranteed to be one of Jim Furyk’s captain’s picks after finishing second to Brooks Koepka
Nobody moved in or out of the top eight on the American Ryder Cup standings after the PGA Championship but Tiger Woods removed any question about whether he would be worthy of a captain’s pick.
There was some shuffling in the American deck at the final event before automatic qualification for the September 28 to 30 battle with Europe in Paris was awarded to the top eight on the points list.
By winning at Bellerive, Brooks Koepka finished top of the standings ahead of Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Webb Simpson.
Captain Jim Furyk will pick four others – three on September 3 and the final choice on September 9.
Woods, in finishing runner-up on Sunday, jumped from 20th to 11th in the standings, behind Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickelson.
It is inconceivable that Furyk would leave out Woods given his form in the past two majors and his experience of seven previous Ryder Cups.
Sixteen months after a spinal fusion that was successful beyond his wildest dreams, the 42-year-old is back as one of the best players in the world.
“I’m just pleased with what I’ve done so far, and now to be part of the Ryder Cup conversation, from where I’ve come to now, it’s been pretty cool,” said 14-time major champion Woods.
Koepka is on top of the golfing world but he got a first-hand look on Sunday of what to expect should Woods make Furyk’s team.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) August 13, 2018
The support for Woods, playing two groups ahead, sucked the oxygen out of the atmosphere surrounding the final pairing of Koepka and Adam Scott, who played in almost funereal silence by comparison at Bellerive.
“Tiger’s coming,” yelled one of the few spectators who bothered hanging around to watch Koepka and Scott after Woods had been through.
The fan was not exactly wrong, but it hardly fazed the under-appreciated Koepka.
Despite one of the most powerful swings in the game, an unflappable temperament and now three major titles, one less than Rory McIlroy, the same as Spieth and two more than world number one Johnson, he is rarely mentioned among the game’s A-listers.
Whether Sunday’s two-stroke victory over Woods changes the way the 28-year-old is perceived is an open question.
“I try to acknowledge all the fans as much as I can but there’s always going to be people that hate you, but you’ve just got to move on and use that as motivation,” said the American. “The people around me, they know who I am, and that’s really all I care about.”