Date: October 16, 2019
Author: Martin Blake

I’d pick Woods, says Justin Thomas

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World No. 5 Justin Thomas says he would have Tiger Woods on the United States Presidents Cup team “100 times out of 100’’ if he’s fit and playing well, as speculation continues around Woods in the lead-up to Royal Melbourne in December.

Thomas, who is in South Korea to play this week, told media that Woods had reached out to all of the players already selected for the Cup against the International team, seeking feedback about his own position.

Woods is recovering from an arthoscopy on his left knee, although he resumes playing in Japan next Monday. He was not in the top eight Americans who qualified but as captain, he can choose himself as one of four ‘captain’s picks’ to make up the team of 12.

Thomas is happy to leave it with Woods, who has played in eight Presidents Cup teams including the previous two (1998 and 2011) played at Royal Melbourne’s famous composite course.

“If he’s healthy and playing well, I’d take him 100 times out of 100,” Thomas said today. “He knows his body; he knows himself well enough to make that decision. He’s asked me about it, and I’ve told him that exact same thing. For him, it’s all about health, and for anybody, they need to make sure that their game is ready and their body is ready. It’s not just something you do just to do. If he’s going to pick himself, it’s only because he’s ready and he’s playing well.’’

Woods has had a great last 12 months including his famous Masters victory in April, but his knee injury complicated the situation for Royal Melbourne. Originally when he was selected as captain of the US, it was thought that he would be non-playing, but his rejuvenation as a player changed all that.

For the likes of 26-year-old Thomas, who grew up following Woods, it is a career highlight in the making. “I mean, if you’d told me when I was a kid that I could play in a Presidents Cup team with Tiger Woods as my captain I probably would have fainted or something like that. It’s kind of surreal and I have to step back and see what’s happening.”

Thomas made his Presidents Cup debut in New Jersey in 2017, where he was one of the better American players in a strong victory over the Internationals. But he has never played or even been to Australia, let alone Royal Melbourne, a fact he put down to distance. “If it was as easy as just to come quickly, I would’ve 100 percent made the trip,” he said.

But he has already heard lots about what he can expect from Woods, a devotee of the Melbourne sandbelt courses, and from Fred Couples, Woods’ assistant in Melbourne. “All I’ve heard is how much I’m going to love it, from Tiger and Freddie saying how much I’ll love the course and everything about it,” he said.