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Why this surprising Tiger Woods phone call meant so much to Davis Love

Captain's Assistants Davis Love III and Tiger Woods of the American Team are interviewed after practice rounds prior to the Presidents Cup at Liberty National Golf Club on September 27, 2017 in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Tiger Woods wasn’t a perfect Presidents Cup captain at the 2019 edition in Melbourne — his decision to bench himself for both sessions on a tight Day 3 remains a head-scratcher — but Tony Finau that week nicely summed up one of Woods’ biggest assets when he said, “We were very inspired to play for Tiger, and with Tiger, and it’s so satisfying to win this Cup because of that.”

Ergo, when the conversation turned to who would succeed Woods at the next Presidents Cup, the answer seemed obvious: no one. Capt. Woods should run it back.

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One problem: Woods’ heart wasn’t fully in it, because he felt like he still had the game to qualify as a player for the 2021 edition at Quail Hollow, in Charlotte (which subsequently was pushed to 2022 on account of Covid). After Woods’ 2019 Masters win and spotless 3-0 performance at Royal Melbourne, you’d have been a fool to doubt him.

Also muddying the waters was the looming 2023 Ryder Cup captaincy. Might Woods fill that spot? Or was Zach Johnson a better match for Rome? The U.S. Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup captaincies are like a jigsaw puzzle — getting all the pieces to fit isn’t always easy.

As it turned out, neither player got the nod for Quail Hollow.

The duty instead went to Charlotte-born Davis Love III, who has twice served as U.S. Ryder Cup captain and also has been an assistant captain at multiple Presidents Cups. When the offer came to Love, it came from the same guy for whom Love had been lobbying to get the job: yep, Tiger Woods.

“He calls me and says, ‘All right, you’re captain in Charlotte. It’s the right thing to do at this time. You’re going to be Presidents Cup captain eventually, so you should do it in Charlotte,” Love recalled earlier this week from the RBC Heritage. “To have him make that phone call and be a part of it really makes it even more special. I’ve had some great phone calls like that as both captain and assistant captain, but that was the coolest one probably.”

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Among the next big questions: Will Woods play on Love’s team? Or, more to the point, will he be physically able come September? Love knows about as much as you do. He, like many observers, didn’t think Woods would play again. Woods did. He, like many observers, didn’t think Woods could walk 72 holes at Augusta National. Woods did. Could Woods possibly qualify for Love’s team?

“I’ll just say no, he’s not going to play enough golf and he won’t be able to do it, so then he’ll do it,” Love said.

Love said he just wants Woods around the team in any capacity, even if it has to happen remotely, via teleconferences and texts, as was the case at the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits last fall. If Woods continues to show flashes of his old self this season, a captain’s pick is also very much a possibility.

“Any role he wants,” Love said. “We had to pry him off the couch a little bit last winter and spring to get involved in the Ryder Cup and then once we got him going, he was very engaged and loved it. Obviously, it’s been a long year and a half for him, so that’s one thing that [assistant captains] Fred [Couples] and Zach [Johnson] and I need to do is get him in the loop and say, ‘All right, what do you want to do?’

“I mean, if he says, ‘You’re not captain anymore, I’m going to be the captain,’ we’ll probably have to talk about that one. But anything else, if he wants to be co-captain or assistant captain or player … whatever he wants to do.”

It’s good to be king.

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