Tiger Woods will send himself and Justin Thomas out first at Presidents Cup

December 11, 2019

There was plenty of anticipation for Tiger Woods’ decisions as a playing-captain at the Presidents Cup, and without wasting much time he’s already made a statement. Woods paired himself with Justin Thomas in the first group out for the United States team in Australia.

Woods initially deferred the decision to his counterpart Ernie Els, who chose Marc Leishman to go out with Presidents Cup rookie Joaquin Niemann. Woods looked to his vice captains — Steve Stricker, Fred Couples and Zach Johnson — with a sense of “why not?” None of them stopped him.

With a smile, Woods turned back to the microphone and said four words: “Justin Thomas. Tiger Woods.”

And that was that. Woods will play with his Jupiter buddy, a pair that was long rumored as an option, against one of the International team’s best in Leishman and its youngest in Niemann. Thomas and Woods are both ranked in the world top 10 at the moment, while neither Leishman nor Niemann crack the top 25.

When asked afterward about his decision, Woods put it plainly, “It was important for me to get out there as a player.”

That leaves the lead captain role technically unfilled, so Woods selected Steve Stricker to step into that spot for Thursday’s opening session. Stricker was the captain at the 2017 Presidents Cup in New Jersey, where the Americans dominated in unprecedented fashion. He is also the captain at the 2020 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits.

Woods’ second main decision was to also play Patrick Reed, who has come under fire for his controversial actions in a waste bunker at the Hero World Challenge. Woods elected to send Reed off with Webb Simpson in the fourth match out against Hideki Matsuyama and CT Pan.

Thursday’s opening session of five fourball matches will begin around 9:30 a.m. local time, which is 5:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday evening.

To receive GOLF’s newsletters, subscribe for free here.