When Tiger Woods took the job to be Presidents Cup captain early in 2018, he probably didn't expect the decisions he must make to be so difficult. He hoped -- but probably didn't expect -- he'd be a playing captain. But after his win at the Zozo Championship, it looks like a foregone conclusion he'll be using one of his four captain's picks on himself. After that, the drama starts. Some big names -- Rickie Fowler, Patrick Reed, Jordan Spieth and Gary Woodland -- didn't qualify on points. Some of them -- maybe more than one -- could be on the outside looking in after Woods makes his final decisions official Thursday night.
Before he reveals his roster, we decided to give him some help with those big decisions:
1. Tiger Woods has four captains picks. Whom should he pick?
Bob Harig: The drama over whether he should pick himself should have dissolved by now. Winning the Zozo Championship -- only Kevin Na among the possibilities has won since August -- makes that an easy call. Gary Woodland also played well recently and won the U.S. Open. Despite his nonsense at last year's Ryder Cup, Patrick Reed has proven himself to be excellent in these team competitions. That leaves one spot and I'd pick Jordan Spieth -- it would give him a huge boost, not unlike what Greg Norman did for Adam Scott at the 2009 Presidents Cup.
Ian O'Connor: Tiger Woods. Patrick Reed. Gary Woodland. Jordan Spieth. I think as long as Tiger feels healthy, he needs to play, especially coming off a W. He means too much to the sport, and to a team event that needs a boost, to sit out a chance to be a winning player/captain. Reed and Woodland should be locks. The tough call for me was Spieth over Finau. I guess it comes down to this: Which guy would you rather have out there Sunday with the whole tournament on his shoulders? Despite Spieth's struggles, I still think you have to go with the three-time major winner.
Mark Schlabach: Tiger is picking himself, especially after his record-tying 82nd career victory at the Zozo Championship. He can't not pick Gary Woodland, the reigning U.S. Open champion and one of the best guys on Tour. Tony Finau is another good teammate, as Collins noted in the video I watched 12 times, and he tied for fifth at the Masters and was third at The Open. Obviously, the last pick is where it gets interesting for Tiger. Reed is Captain America and one of the most competitive guys in the world. He can also be a massive headache in the locker room, especially if things aren't going well. Reed wasn't playing very well at the beginning of the 2018-19 season, but then he won the Northern Trust and he played well in Asia. I'll hold my nose and take him with the last pick.
Nick Pietruszkiewicz: For the record, I am still against Tiger picking Tiger. He deserves it, he has earned it, but for him, it's just not worth the added stress and strain. But, since we are headed in that direction, I'm going with Tiger, Finau, Woodland and Kevin Na. The first three are pretty obvious -- Tiger is Tiger, Finau just missed out, standing ninth on the points list, and Woodland has played well and won the U.S. Open. Na is my wild card. He won a month ago, so his game is there. He got Tiger to laugh on the golf course, never an easy task, when he walked in a putt during The Players. And his quirks will probably drive the International side nuts.
2. Brooks Koepka seems as if he is iffy to play because of a knee issue. So that could actually give Woods a fifth pick. Who is No. 1 on the "Replace Brooks" list?
Harig: If Tony Finau isn't chosen initially, then this is where he fits in. Finau went 2-1 at the Ryder Cup last year. He finished ninth in the points. He seems to fit the mold of a future player whom the U.S. would love to keep getting more experience.
Collins: Kevin Kisner. He would be the odd man out after Tiger makes his four picks.
O'Connor: Tony Finau. He has only the one tour victory, but I like his power and temperament, and the fact that he went 2-1 in Paris in a brutal Ryder Cup performance for the U.S. I'd give Finau the nod over Rickie Fowler, Kevin Na and Kevin Kisner.
Schlabach: If Kevin Kisner isn't among the first four picks, I'm definitely taking him if Koepka can't go. Kisner is one of the grittiest players on Tour and excels in match play. He reached the finals of the WGC-Dell Match Play in each of the previous two seasons, winning 3 and 2 over Matt Kuchar in the final in March to claim his third Tour victory. He took down Louis Oosthuizen and Haotong Li -- two International team qualifiers -- along the way. Kisner hits fairways, putts as well as anyone and oozes with confidence. There's a reason Lee Westwood ribbed the Americans for not taking Kisner to Paris for the 2018 Ryder Cup.
Pietruszkiewicz: For the star quality, I'd want to go with Rickie Fowler, but I probably have to agree on Kisner. It makes sense, given his match play win earlier this year. The other factor in these events is that making putts is key. He was sixth in total putting a season ago, 20th in strokes gained putting and 10th in three-putt avoidance. The last part is that people like playing with him. A recent golf.com poll had him listed by fellow pros as the player with whom they most enjoy being paired.
3. OK, barring a stunner, Tiger is going to pick Tiger. What advice would you give Tiger the captain about how to use Tiger the player?
Harig: Play best-ball only, and put yourself with a strong partner such as Justin Thomas, who can do all the work by himself if necessary. That means playing once on Thursday and then only once during Saturday's double session.
Collins: Your No. 1 role as captain should be to spend more time being the captain rather than being the player. Big picture, this event means nothing compared to you competing in majors down the road. We couldn't forgive you if you got hurt ... I'm not even going to finish that thought because it'll just make me mad.
O'Connor: Just have fun with it. This event will have no lasting impact on your legacy, so don't worry about public perception as it relates to how you manage the man in the mirror. If you have a hot hand and feel strong, put yourself out there as much as possible. If you feel you need to limit your play to remain totally engaged with the team, as captain, then do that.
Schlabach: Don't overdo it. I agree with Bob. Play best-ball only, and let the younger guys do the heavy lifting. Be a good leader and captain. Make sure Patrick Reed is happy with his playing partners.
Pietruszkiewicz: Rest. As much rest as possible. Did I mention rest? No need to push it, especially during Saturday's double session. Remember, Tiger wants to win more tournaments and more majors. Nobody has any clue what his career record is in the Ryder Cup, never mind what his stats are in the Presidents Cup. Don't risk long-term potential for the meaningless short term.
4. Will (or should) the Ryder Cup drama have any impact on whether or not Woods picks Patrick Reed?
Harig: It shouldn't. Tiger has said he and Reed spoke in the aftermath, and you'd like to think they have moved on from it. Believe me, if Reed is not picked, then it becomes an issue all over again.
Collins: It shouldn't be, but we're all human here (I'm almost positive). Here's where Tiger can shine as captain, and why he'll make a great Ryder Cup captain. The U.S. loses because the Europeans put their differences aside and play as a team. The U.S. team hasn't been able to do that. Tiger would be the guy whom a team would follow. If Tiger asks, are YOU saying no? Neither would they.
O'Connor: I don't think so. Though he is the ultimate individualist, Tiger is a big enough sports fan to know that winning teams put aside petty differences. Plenty of championship coaches have put up with gifted players they didn't like in pursuit of victory. Tiger will pick the guys who will help him win, and Reed is one of them.
Schlabach: You can't simply overlook what happened in Paris and the aftermath, but the U.S. team needs Reed -- and it needs him to get along with everyone else on the team. A happy and confident Captain America gives the Americans a better chance to win in Australia and, more importantly, at the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits next year.
Pietruszkiewicz: It absolutely should play a factor. Anything Tiger does comes with attention and scrutiny. So why add more stress to your life? Fair or not, Reed comes with stress in a team situation, especially with the cloud from the Ryder Cup still following him.
5. What's your dream matchup in this Presidents Cup?
Harig: Tiger vs. Adam Scott in singles with the Presidents Cup not decided. It is rare for Tiger not to be the crowd favorite, but this would be an instance. And imagine if the event were actually undecided, with Woods having to beat the local to salvage his own captaincy?
Collins: Marc Leishman and Adam Scott against Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson. I want our boys to put a dagger in the hearts of the Australians early. Take the crowd out and make the home team feel hopeless immediately. I know it seems cruel and mean, but we can be friends after I (we) win.
O'Connor: Man, this is a lot easier question to answer about the Ryder Cup, which feels like the Super Bowl compared to the wild-card round Presidents Cup. Tiger has to be involved, of course, so I'll go with Woods vs. Jason Day, a certain captain's pick, down the stretch in the Sunday singles with everything on the line. I know they are buds, but the star power and the stakes would make that one fun to watch.
Schlabach: Jason Day vs. Bryson DeChambeau in singles. A six-hour match!
Pietruszkiewicz: Wow, these are some good choices. I'd love to see Tiger vs. Scott or Day to decide the thing on Sunday, but I'd imagine Tiger, being captain, will go out early so he can jump in a cart with an earpiece and monitor everything going on. So if Tiger takes my advice and picks Na, I want to see Na and DeChambeau teamed together against any international pairing and see how long it takes for someone to wrap a single-length iron around their necks.