<
>

Everything you need to know as Tiger Woods, Ernie Els fill out their Presidents Cup rosters

Chris Condon/PGA TOUR

There is understandably considerable conjecture surrounding whom the captains will pick to round out their teams, whether it be a Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup.

That is no different now as the United States and International teams will finally be determined this week when Tiger Woods makes his four selections for the U.S. squad (Thursday) and Ernie Els does the same for the International team (Wednesday).

One thing to keep in mind: Nobody at this point "deserves'' a pick. That comes up often as the debates ensue over why certain players should round out the 12-man squads.

In truth, only those who qualified automatically back in August "deserve'' to be on the team. They earned their spots through play over more than a year's time. They made it based on the points systems that are in place, and those looking for a pick now had the same opportunity.

Sure, there can be some extenuating circumstances, all of which the captain can take into account, part of the process for filling out the team. Here is a look at what Woods and Els face as they make their picks for the Dec. 12-15 matches at Royal Melbourne.

3 EASY, 1 HARD... That's what Captain Tiger Woods is faced with his 4 picks. Here's why.

Michael Collins, ESPN Senior Writer11d ago

United States

Captain: Tiger Woods
Automatic qualifiers: Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Webb Simpson, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau
Among the possibilities: Tony Finau, Gary Woodland, Patrick Reed, Rickie Fowler, Woods, Kevin Kisner, Kevin Na, Jordan Spieth

The lowdown: Since the eight automatic qualifiers were determined after the BMW Championship in August, Woods and Na are the only players among the top contenders to win.

The big question: Woods as a playing captain has been debated since he officially took the job in March 2018. It couldn't have possibly been realistic to him a few months earlier when he expressed to PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan that he would like to do it. But even if there were doubts over the summer when Woods' form fell off, the idea that he would pick himself was very real -- far more so now that he is coming off a victory in Japan and is ranked seventh in the world.

The locks: You can make a case for and against the rest, but it is difficult to see Woods not picking himself, Woodland and Reed. Woodland, the reigning U.S. Open champion, contended at both the CJ Cup and Zozo Championship to bolster his hopes. Reed, who won the Northern Trust in August, was one of America's best team players before the Ryder Cup implosion last year in France. He should be given another chance.

The last one: It will be controversial, but Spieth makes a lot of sense. Woods and Phil Mickelson have been a big behind-the-scenes part of the entire Ryder Cup effort to groom future captains, assistants and players. Spieth, whose form has been off for some time, has been an integral part of the past few teams and picking him would give him a big boost -- sort of in the manner that Greg Norman did for Adam Scott 10 years ago.

The tough calls: In this scenario, Woods would have some difficult phone calls to make to Finau and Fowler. Finau finished ninth in the points. He was one of the lone bright spots at the Ryder Cup last year in Paris, when he went 2-1. And he's got the same kind of potential noted of Spieth for future teams. But his lack of victories -- just one in an opposite event -- gives pause. Fowler is a veteran of U.S. teams (6-10-6 combined) but hasn't played since the Tour Championship; he got married this fall. Kisner had a good Presidents Cup two years ago and has been a force in each of the past two WGC-Match Play Championships, winning this year. Na won in Las Vegas and is an excellent putter.

The unknown: Koepka injured his knee at the CJ Cup -- the same one he had stem cell treatment on in August -- causing him to skip the WGC-HSBC Champions. His status for the Presidents Cup is dubious at the moment. To a lesser extent, that is the case for Johnson, who also had knee surgery after the Tour Championship and only recently started hitting balls. If either or both are unable to go, Woods would get two extra picks to replace them all the way up until the opening ceremony of the Presidents Cup.

Which 4 players SHOULD Captain Ernie Els pick if he wants the International Team to win the President's Cup?!

Michael Collins, ESPN Senior Writer11d ago

International

Captain: Ernie Els
Automatic qualifiers: Marc Leishman, Hideki Matsuyama, Louis Oosthuizen, Adam Scott, Haotong Li, Abraham Ancer, C.T. Pan, Cameron Smith
Among the possibilities: Jason Day, Jazz Janewattananond, Sungjae Im, Justin Harding, Ben An, Adam Hadwin, Brendan Grace, Joaquin Niemann

The lowdown: The highest-ranked International player is Scott at No. 17 in the world. If Woods were to pick himself, Finau, Reed and Woodland, all four of his choices would be ranked ahead of the highest International player. As it stands now, seven of the U.S. automatic qualifiers are ahead of Scott.

The (Big) Easy call: Day is going to get picked. The fact that he didn't make the team on his own is somewhat stunning, but his experience and the fact that he is from Australia -- giving the team four Aussies -- is just too much to pass up.

The locks: In addition to Day, Im is an obvious pick. The South Korean golfer finished 11th in the points and was the PGA Tour's rookie of the year with 10 top-10 finishes on his way to qualifying for the Tour Championship. He also finished second in Mississippi and tied for third behind Woods at the Zozo Championship.

The choices: Niemann, who won the Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, appears another strong possibility for Els, but the last two choices are far from easy. Ben An was 15th in the points but has been a steady player for four years. He'd also make an excellent partner for Im in the team competitions. Grace seems a long shot -- he just missed the cut in Bermuda and he has fallen out of the top 100 in the world -- but he did go 5-0 at the 2015 Presidents Cup, has experience and makes for a good partnership with Oosthuizen.

Bottom line: Outside of Day and Im, Els does not have slam-dunk choices. But he seems to have taken a very analytical approach to being captain, and it's possible his picks are very clear to him, based on who has already made the team and potential matchups. One thing is certain, the International team -- which has won just once in Presidents Cup history, in 1998 at Royal Melbourne -- will be a huge underdog. As it stands, there is a possibility that only Scott (17) and Matsuyama (20) will be ranked ahead of the lowest American, Matt Kuchar (22).